According to 2017 statistics produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are over 792 million people around the globe that suffer from some type of mental health disorder (Ritchie H., 2018), and latest reports, which include the consequences of a worldwide pandemic, declare the numbers are exponentially rising1. Such statistics may be affected by insufficient education at schools about the recognition of various emotions and identification of particular thoughts as signs that could be associated with mental health problems.
At school, the place where children experience the most significant mental development, ignorance of the importance of mental health is still very common, and only a small amount of people are aware of what the consequences of untreated mental disorders can be for a person of any age group. Education about mental health and its disorders must be taught in schools because it can prevent a significant amount of people from suffering any type of mental illness and spread the awareness of the existence of mental health issues that everybody at some point deals with.
The lack of education about mental health struggles, challenges, and disorders has caused suicide to become third most leading cause of death for people who are in between 10 to 24 years old, since 90 percent of registered cases were related to mental illness2. Youth deals with a lot of pressure to get good grades, be a perfect example for younger students as well as have everything figured out before they even turn into adults. However, schools do not teach students how to open up and talk about their worries, struggles, and emotions, or even mention that such emotions exist and it is normal to experience them. With such pressure on their shoulders and lack of teaching on disclosing undergoing emotions, students tend to keep all the anxiety, negativity and their burdens in themselves3. Such habits consequently lead youth to have no ability to express themselves and are likely to ultimately be diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder4. Studies, presented by Ashley Broadwater, show that educated students about mental health issues and disorders have made them take care of their own mental well-being before they are faced with permanent distress5. Useful information and acknowledgment of mental health disorders can potentially decrease the numbers of suicide cases amongst youth and, as the Brain Forest Centers website states: “Save them from making permanent decisions to end temporary situations”6. It is very important to make mental health education mandatory in schools, because it would educate children and adolescents about how to understand their own emotions towards societal pressure and other struggles. In addition, it could prevent them from suffering complications, like mental health disorders and help them overcome problems without harming themselves in one way or another.
There are over 200 forms of mental health illnesses7 and barely any information about them is taught to children at schools. While there is so much information about physical health, how important it is to be active and treat your body with care, there is no teaching on what even mental health is and how impactful it is for student’s life and well-being. Educating students on what mental health is, how to deal with it, and where to seek help can spread the awareness and show them it is beneficial to talk about what is going on in their minds or what emotions they are going through. This type of education should be covered consistently as students’ mental developments are constantly improving and emotional problems, which could be experienced currently, may differ from those in the past8. Education about mental health, whose peculiarities would be specified according to audience’s age group, could potentially ensure the effectiveness and relevance of the subject in schools to children. With the acknowledgment of how damaging mental struggles are to human’s overall being, enlightenment about it could also contribute to ending bullying, slut-shaming, or rumours, because it would reinforce and trigger the emergence of empathy as well as understanding of what students who get bullied go through mentally9. As children psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Kutcher, affirmed: “Education can’t get rid of mental illness but it can give you the tools you need to do what you can to stack the odds in your favour that you won’t get it”10. Youth must be educated and aware of what issues untreated mental health problems and suppressed emotions can cause to their further life. Such education would also contribute to distinguishing patterns of mental health issues in others, and guide them to seek for help or acknowledge about what they are actually going through.
Mental health disorders, challenges, and issues are not taboo anymore as everyone is beginning to realise how crucial it is to acknowledge it, yet schools and education systems do not seem to care. Education about mental health can save lives and encourage people not to stay silent when they are facing difficulties. We truly do have a chance to make younger generations’ lives get better, and all that is needed is a public communication on mental health and importance to take care of it in schools.