Last week there was an important event which represents a gradually shifting attitude towards mental health issues. On the 29th of January, in the British Library in London, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network: Mental Health and the 14 young people on its advisory group, along with 160 delegates assembled to engage with the issue of young people’s mental health and wellbeing and what can be done about it. The importance of such an event can scarcely be understated. As Charles Walker MP stated as he opened the event:
“ Mental health and wellbeing is important to all of us and we should not be afraid or reluctant to talk about it. Young people face a range of challenges and we need to make sure, that at times of distress and illness, the necessary support and services are in place to meet their needs. ”
Mental health and wellbeing is indeed important. Around 10% of young people have a diagnosable mental health disorder and 15% are at increased risk. The damage such disorders can do is huge, although not always an obvious result of the disorders themselves. Poor behaviour in the classroom, bullying or violence on the street or in the playground, absences from school, loss of interest in academic work, exclusions and ultimately even suicide are possible consequences. Many of the problems that we worry about in education (and society more generally) stem from how people behave and could it not be possible that negative behaviour choices are a result of poor mental health?
At Nichols Education we strongly believe in prevention and early intervention. As with almost any other health issue, early detection and intervention is key to the long term plan and a reactive approach is seldom effective either clinically or financially. We believe the solution to dealing with mental health issues is to work with schools systematically and over the long term; placing professionals into schools to identify those pupils who are most in need and to give all young people some initial resilience training to prevent mental health issues from taking hold in future. If you think this is important, then tell someone about it. Getting people talking about the issue is an important first step. That is why the event last week was so important.