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The Importance of Mental Health Education in Schools

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As part of our Children’s Mental Health Week series, we spoke to Hannah Trimble, Training and Development Manager at Shawmind, about their essential work surrounding mental health training and education in schools.

Can you give me a bit of background about Shawmind? What are your aims as an organisation?

Established in 2016, Shawmind is a young charity on a mental health mission. We are committed to helping individuals and organisations understand mental health & emotional wellbeing, and how to manage them effectively to lead successful, fulfilled lives.

Whether at school or at work, mental health & emotional wellbeing challenges can be debilitating if not dealt with early on. They can destroy productivity and take the joy out of life. In schools, we focus our resources on equipping teachers to understand the basics of mental health to support their pupils more effectively when dealing with such challenges.

Tell me about one or two of your stand-out success stories?

In 2017 we raised 103 000 signatures during our Headucation campaign calling for a parliamentary debate on compulsory children’s mental health education in schools. This led to mental health education in primary and secondary schools being made compulsory from September 2020.  This hugely successful campaign firmly established Shawmind as a champion of mental health in the UK, despite being a fledgling charity.

What’s next for the charity?

Our five-year goal is to provide effective mental health support to 2.4 million school children across the UK. To do this, we are aiming to provide mental health training to more than 151 000 teachers, focusing on basic mental health support, giving them the knowledge and confidence to spot signs of mental illness and emotional distress, and teaching them how to support children and students under their care who may be struggling. We believe that early intervention through this proactive and preventative strategy will save people from years of unnecessary suffering by allowing them to get help sooner – in some cases, possibly even heading off serious mental ill health before it has a serious impact on their life. More than 75% of mental illnesses are diagnosable before a child’s 18th birthday, so in recognising and tackling these issues early on, we hope to significantly improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the next generation.

More than 75% of mental illnesses are diagnosable before a child’s 18th birthday, so in recognising and tackling these issues early on, we hope to significantly improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the next generation.

Teachers are now expected to be teaching on mental health as part of the PSHE curriculum, however teachers receive no mental health training as part of their initial teacher training. Consequently, there are many who feel ill equipped to be teaching a mental health curriculum when they themselves have not been given any training on the subject. What happens when a student discloses an issue to them during one of these lessons? How are teachers prepared to deal with that and what is their duty of care? Our teacher basic mental health support training initiative aims to address this head on. It costs just £5 per child to provide a teacher with necessary training, and with this, they can take the knowledge gained from classroom to classroom over their entire teaching career, so in fact the reach is far further over time.

How can people get involved?

Having launched this initiative during COVID lockdown, we have worked with a number of schools already to provide training for their teachers and in all instances; this has been extremely well received. Teachers feel more confident and in control of situations when a student discloses any issues to them, they have an understanding of what to look out for and by being open with their students, they can also develop a much better working relationship with their students and their teaching colleagues.

To find out more about Shawmind’s teacher training initiative, or to make a donation to the cause: Our Teacher Mental Health Training Campaign – Headucation 2025 – Shawmind

And this February, in support of Children’s Mental Health Week, why not join our “Sock It To Stigma” campaign? Stigma around mental health continues to prevent many people from speaking up. Sock it to Stigma is a fun way to engage with a serious topic in your school or workplace – and the funds raised are being used to train teachers in basic mental health support.  Sock it to Stigma! 2021 – Shawmind

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