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Children Being Failed By Approach To Mental Health In Schools

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

The new school year is fast approaching. The last 2 years for children & young people have been incredibly difficult and has had a profound impact on their #MentalHealth and wellbeing.

Mental Health education in schools can significantly impact students current and future mental health. By doing so, this would massive eliminate stigma and bullying and create resiliency through awareness. The benefits are endless.

I’m working to create age appropriate lesson plans and curriculum to implement better mental health and well-being education in schools.

Joe Plumb Mental Health Education
Mental Health Education
  • 70% of adults with mental illness see symptoms emerge in childhood and adolescence.

  • The ANNA FREUD CENTRE asked 3000 young people if they would like to see mental health brought into the classroom and for conversations to be normalised. 93% of the young people replied 'YES'.

In February 2019, the government pledged that "All pupils will be taught about mental and physical wellbeing".

In a press release, the Education Secretary 'Damian Hinds' said

"All children in England will be taught how to look after their mental wellbeing and recognise when classmates may be struggling, as the Government unveils new guidance for the introduction of compulsory health education.

"Bold new plans set out today (Monday 25 February) by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds confirm that, from September 2020, pupils of all ages will be taught the new subject – with a focus on promoting the positive link between physical and mental health.

This comes alongside the introduction of compulsory relationships education for primary-age pupils and relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary-age pupils, to ensure children have all the knowledge they need to grow up healthy, happy and safe.

"It follows an extensive call for evidence and three-month consultation on the draft regulations and guidance. This received more than 11,000 responses including from leading charities, teaching unions and subject associations – many of whom have welcomed today’s proposals.

"Making health education universal – and updating sex education guidance for the first time since 2000 – will ensure pupils are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of an “ever more complex” world, both on- and offline." (Source:

However, 2 years on and those plans which were set out and promised don't seem to have been followed and once again, the mental health crisis of Children and Young People is increasing once again.

Joe Plumb Mental Health

It is also now compulsory for all schools to tach pupils about mental health and wellbeing as part of health and relationships education.

The mental health charity 'Mind' consulted with over 2,870 young people, parents/caregivers of young people affected by mental health problems, mental health professionals and school staff across England. The charity found that nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) young people reported being absent from school due to their mental health. Some young people also reported having their mental health problems treated as bad behaviour, rather than being supported to address underlying issues. Some reported being sent into isolation, physically restrained, or excluded from school for this reason. You can read their full report here.

The introduction of RSHE as a subject became compulsory in September 2020, although the government has given an extension until summer 2021 to schools who are not yet able to because of the pandemic.

RSHE is taught in both primary and secondary education, although there are differences. In primary schools, RSHE may be known as RHE, as sex education is not compulsory until secondary school. However, some primary schools may choose to include this as part of their lessons.

RSHE is not currently compulsory in sixth forms, 16-19 academies or further education colleges.

Government guidance states that: ‘In primary schools, we want the subjects to put in place the key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships, focusing on family and friendships, in all contexts, including online. This will sit alongside the essential understanding of how to be healthy. At secondary, teaching will build on the knowledge acquired at primary and develop further pupils’ understanding of health, with an increased focus on risk areas such as drugs and alcohol, as well as introducing knowledge about intimate relationships and sex.’

The subject is split into two sections: physical health and mental wellbeing and relationships.

Physical health and mental wellbeing This area of RSHE covers:

  • Mental wellbeing, which teaches students about the importance of mental health, how to talk about their feelings and where to seek help

  • Internet safety and harms, which focuses on topics like cyberbullying, how to behave online, how internet use can affect body image, and online relationships

  • Healthy eating

  • Drugs, alcohol and tobacco, including the impact drug use can have on mental health

  • Health and prevention, which touches on the importance of good sleep to mental wellbeing

  • Basic first aid

  • Changing adolescent body, which covers the emotional changes children and young people may experience as they grow

Relationships This part of RSHE covers:

  • Families and people who care for me, which includes the characteristics of healthy family life and how to ask for help if family life is making them feel unhappy or unsafe

  • Caring friendships, where pupils will learn about how to create and maintain healthy friendships and how to resolve issues with friends

  • Respectful relationships, focusing on the importance of respecting others even if they come from different backgrounds, as well as learning about bullying

  • Online relationships (primary), online and media (secondary), including the risks of talking to people anonymously on the internet, viewing harmful content online, and the impact that viewing pornography can have

  • Being safe, which teaches students about consent, boundaries and the laws around this

  • Intimate and sexual relationships (compulsory at secondary level only), which includes information on healthy intimate relationships, and identifying and managing sexual pressure

We need to create lesson plans for early years, primary and secondary settings to teach and talk about mental health in an age-appropriate way. We need to encourage and normalise conversations around mental health. We must also ensure that there is support and guidance in schools and make sure students know where they can access confidential help, advice and support. This shouldn't just be 1 or 2 members of staff. All teaching staff should have training to at least have the basic knowledge, understanding and tools to hand so that every child feels safe and supported.

What we also need is a complete restructure of our mental health system which is out-dated, underfunded and over stretched. Not just for children but for adults too.

Too many people are waiting for help or unable to get help leaving them feeling alone, unworthy and causing so many to loose hope which is taking countless lives each year.

Mental Health has been a pandemic for years. We as a society and a government need to give it the same care, attention and focus as the Covid-19 pandemic.