Why the Whole World Needs Mental Health Education
By: Gabby Frost
Education is an influential part of everyone’s life. Whether it is education on English, Mathematics, Science, or even social issues, education serves as a driving force for how our world functions. Schools clearly take first place when it comes to where people get the most education. From elementary all the way to college, there are a wide variety of things being taught, but many schools are missing a key thing to educate the students on.
Students usually spend 13 years of their lives in school before entering college and most of those schools are not offering the proper education and awareness on mental health. Schools need to work on implementing programs to actually add strong curriculum about mental health to health classes. Learning about drinking, drugs, and heart disease are important things, but after being taught the same thing year after year, it loses the effectiveness. Mental health education needs to start as early as 5th grade, which is typically when students are at the average age for puberty (10 ½ years old).
Changes in one’s body can become huge insecurities to some pre-teens, which can lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and self-harm. These changes can also cause people to be bullied, whether a girl is developing breasts faster than everyone or a boy is growing facial hair early. Being bullied can lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Every year the elementary schools in my school district make all of the 5th graders split up by gender to watch a video on how puberty works. If 5th graders are expected to grasp the concepts of how their body will be physically changing over the next couple years, why can’t they also be educated on the mental changes that could possibly occur in that same timespan too?
Based on the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report, up to 1 in 5 children aged 3-17 have a diagnosable mental illness. I know this statistics can’t be true as the stigma of mental illnesses has held many kids back from saying anything about their mental health.
Too many pre-teens and teens today are going through mental health problems that they could have received education on before their problem(s) arose or became significant. If schools can offer students a place to find support or the correct resources on how to find mental health help, it could drastically reduce the numbers on so many statistics.
Obviously not all of these students would be able to get the proper help when offered it. A majority of the time it’s because their parents/guardians do not believe how they’re feeling due to the detrimental stigma surrounding mental illness.
“It’s all in your head,” they’ll say to their 13-year-old daughter struggling to not let her depressive thoughts take over. “But can’t you just stop?” they’ll say when she also tells them that she is addicted to self-harming her wrists.
This stigma will continue to exist unless we all come together to be a voice for those fighting any mental health problems. It will always be an issue facing people around the world, but if efforts are strong enough it can become a minimal problem that is a rarity. Stigmas of any type come from a place of ignorance and can be fixed with proper education, which is why schools need to open their eyes and realize mental health initiatives need to be occurring globally.