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Lancaster University student Becca Hall has created an online petition to lobby the government into teaching high school students about mental health, by making it a part of the curriculum.
Hall, a first year Psychology undergraduate, created the petition on popular website change.org, and wrote in the description “one in four people will suffer from a mental health problem. Despite this, a lack of mental health education amongst young people is causing increased social prejudice, leaving [them] too embarrassed and ashamed to ask for help.”
The petition goes on to say that making mental health education obligatory in schools would go a long way to erasing social stigma and improving people’s ability to recognise issues in order to get help as quickly as possible.
The letter addressed for Secretary of State Education, Michael Gove, is short but effective, simply stating:
“To: Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education.
Make mental health a compulsory part of high school curriculum.
Hall spoke exclusively to SCAN about the petition and the motivation behind driving this campaign. She argued that the petition to teach children about mental health had the potential to save lives. “It basically started because of my own struggles,” Hall told SCAN. “I’ve struggled with mental illness for years and I’ve always been of the belief that if it wasn’t such a taboo subject, I would have been able to seek help and support sooner. I know a lot of people who also struggle and have faced a lot of discrimination and abuse… since knowledge is power I believe that educating people [at a high school level] about this topic could vastly reduce the stigma.”
On the petition Hall claims that she has already been in touch with the Department of Education directly, to ask if it would be possible to talk to somebody about adding mental health to the science curriculum in schools. “I received a response which basically implied that the Government still did not consider mental health a serious issue, and that if schools wished to teach their students about the topic, then they would have to do so of their own accord in PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons, which from my experience are never taken very seriously.” At the time of going to print the petition had 260 signatures, less than two days after Hall created the petition. It needs 10,000 signatures before it will be considered by Gove and the Government.
Hall also argued that “in England alone, mental health conditions cost [around] £105 billion a year, due to loss of earnings and the associated treatment and welfare costs. Therefore, it would surely be in the Government’s best interests to invest [in] educating people from an early age about the basics of mental health… which could allow for quicker recognition, diagnosis and treatment…”, thus, an overall reduction in cost.
The petition has so far gained much support and has spread as far as Canada, with signatories sharing their reasons for joining the petition in the comments section. One comment says: “I believe in a world where people are fully aware of the impact of their words and actions on others… I believe that with an earlier exposure to these issues, one can be more able to provide help to those who need it when they show the signs. I know many people suffering from depression, and I wish they felt more comfortable with opening up about it…but the stigma surrounding mental illness is what makes them feel ostracised.”
The petition is open for anybody to sign and upon receiving 10,000 signatures, will go straight to Michael Gove. It can be found at: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/michael-gove-make-mental-health-a-compulsory-part-of-high-school-curriculum-in-the-uk.