Being able to understand mental health and its struggles is something everyone would benefit from, whether that be adults, teens, or even adolescents. Educating students on topics such as anxiety and depression could not only help thousands of children but also save lives. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, and it is often excluded from the curriculum. Keep reading to learn exactly why we need mental health education in schools and the consequences of if it isn’t taught.
Children and Teens Experiencing Mental Health Issues
Poor mental health is one of the biggest inhibitors to learning and growing among children and teenagers. The CDC estimates that one in six children between the ages of 2-8 has some sort of mental health condition. Similarly, 8.4% of children between the ages of 6 and 17 have had depression or anxiety during their lifetimes. Studies have shown that 50% of all lifetime mental conditions begin by age 14. It’s also estimated that up to 70% of children do not receive help for the mental health conditions they are facing as they grow up.
All these numbers add up to one thing: children and teens experience issues with mental health, and not talking about it in schools doesn’t prevent them from those experiences.
A psychiatrist shares his thoughts on identifying and treating adolescent depression.
The Value of Mental Health Education
Learning about mental health in school gives students the opportunity to not only understand what might be going on with them but also how to support and understand their friends and peers. With so much constant change and growth, it can be hard to understand what’s going on inside adolescents’ heads. It can be especially hard to understand if they’re experiencing symptoms of conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc. As kids and teens may be more open to communicating with each other rather than an adult, educating them on mental health can teach them what to do when a friend reaches out to them and is struggling or needs help.
Being able to understand their own mental health also allows them to better understand their emotions and how to regulate them. Increasing emotional intelligence and self-awareness is all part of raising a well-rounded child or teenager.
The more normalized mental health conditions are, the more comfortable people will feel not only in taking care of themselves but also in asking for help. If your child or teen does need mental health support, being educated on the topic may help them better advocate for their needs. And getting your child or teen the help they need will also help them in school, extracurriculars, and everyday life. They’ll be able to focus on feeling better and taking care of themselves rather than be inhibited by the struggles they otherwise could have been facing alone.
Read more about how the mental health stigma is finally changing!
Consequences of No Mental Health Education
Without mental health education, students may go through their mental health struggles alone. While many schools have a school counselor or school psychologist on staff, many students aren’t aware of if or how to reach out to them, or even feel comfortable talking to them. Instead, many adolescents turn to their friends or whatever community they find on the internet. While the internet can be a helpful resource in many ways, it can also be harmful. As kids and teens are also new to understanding the difference between trustworthy and untrustworthy sources, the internet can lead them to false information or ideas about their mental health.
Not knowing why they feel the way they do or how to handle it can make their lives seem impossible for their age. As a result, they may struggle in silence until it is too late. Sadly, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in children and adolescents. Of those who chose to end their life, around half were not diagnosed with a mental condition.
Teaching children about mental conditions and how to cope with them is something that encourages kids to speak out and ask for help when they’re struggling and unsure of what to do. They need people they can trust, who will understand their struggles, and who will get them the help they need as they are too young to do it themselves. Starting that dialogue as early as possible can make all the difference.
Keeping mental health stigmatized in schools does more harm than good. Learning about mental health things in schools can make students feel less alone and give them the resources they need to themselves or their friends the help they need.
Whether schools decide to change their curriculum or not, you can still control how you discuss mental health with your family. We encourage you to destigmatize mental health for your family and check in on your kids often. If they feel they can reach out to you, you’re doing your best to keep them safe and taken care of.
Does your child or teen need help with mental health? Check out our child and adolescent psychiatry program.