Mental Health: A Conversation – In School #2

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HOW SHOULD MENTAL HEALTH BE TACKLED IN SCHOOL?

As the debate on mental health is lingeringly opening up in developed countries, the topic, however, gets an eclectic exposure according to different places. Whilst in the past ten years, numerous organizations raising awareness as regards to mental health problems have emerged in the United States, or in the United Kingdom for instance, the taboo has not yet been completely broken and still needs to be taken into account in other parts of the world.

From my own experience, I have witnessed that, in France, mental health did not seem to be a concerning subject to be taught in schools or at least worth talking about. In fact, the French Ministry of Education pressures schools to provide meetings to inform young students in middle school on alcohol abuse and smoking and educate high-school students on drug substance abuse as part of national health prevention campaigns. Nevertheless, I never attended any talks on mental illness, although there are counsellors working in the school area. Neither have I ever seen a PSA campaign on depression or anxiety, or any other mental health problem. I believe that today mental health is a concern that is starting to be spoken about here, in France — but this needs to go faster.

As local and organizations have paved the way for a broader conversation, some have expressed a will for mental health to be taught in schools as a plain subject, comparable with mathematics or languages. Students would learn about the diverse mental illness, thus learning to break the stigma. It would also teach children and young adults how to identify symptoms or help a struggling close-one to cope. As a matter of fact, this could lead to more diagnoses and taking into account that mental illness can be treated; and yet a large amount of people struggling still does not get treated, this fact is crucial. Alternatives are numerous: workshops in pre-school, especially through art (and art therapy), mandatory meetings for older students similarly to those concerning substance abuses, displaying in class documentaries or animations relevant to the issue. Shedding light on mental health is critical, school shall subsequently be responsible to educate on such matters.

I conducted a survey on social media asking French people if they thought that mental health was enough talked about in middle school and high school. The results are damning: out of 47 surveyed, 17% said YES, whilst 83% answered NO

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! MAY IS THE MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH IN THE US ! 
! MAY 16-22 IS THE MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK IN THE UK !

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RACHEL’S CARE PACKS is an organization founded  in 2015 by fifteen-year-old Rachel Koch. After undergoing medical complications, Rachel was moved to see children who suffer in the hospitals. She decided to help them the way she could: by giving them gifts such as crafts, stuffed animals and coloring materials. Rachel’s Care Packs thus aims at giving presents to children and teenagers suffering not only from mental but also chronic and life-threatening illness. The donations are exclusively used to assemble gifts and ship them to the children all over the United States. People can make donations whether by sending checks or toys. (CLICK HERE TO DONATE)

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is a coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky published in 1999. 15-year-old protagonist, Charlie, writes about his experiences in letters to a stranger. The story begins as Charlie enters high school. The novel tackles different themes pertaining to adolescence such as friendship, first love and sexuality but also body image, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, suicide and eating disorders. 

 

Teachers explain why mental health should be talked about at school. (time-to-change.org.uk, Dec. 2014)

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How do you think the issue should be tackled in school? Can you recall any mental health history and how your school acted? Does your school provide meetings and spread awareness campaigns?

 Don’t wait #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth to share your story! It’s always time to speak up.

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Additional resources:

Share the links you’ve found to add to the list!


#1: What Is Mental Health?

#3: Mental Health On Television

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