Mental health education petition hits 100,000 target

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

A petition calling on the government to make mental health education compulsory in schools has hit 100,000 signatures and campaigners are now calling for a Parliamentary debate to be held on the issue.

The petition on the UK government petitions website reached more than 103,000 signatures despite the cut off deadline being brought forward to May 3 because of the snap General Election.

The push is part of the Headucation UK campaign, which is being led by mental health charity the Shaw Mind Foundation. The petition calls for both primary and secondary schools to be required to provide mental health education.

It points to research showing that one in 10 children and young people aged five to 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – around three children in every class – and that more than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood.

The petition states: “Mental health education is still not part of the UK curriculum despite consistently high rates of child and adolescent mental health issues. By educating young people about mental health in schools, we can increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people.”

However, despite hitting the magic 100,000 figure, the snap General Election on June 8 and the fact that a Green Paper is due later this year on mental health may mean that the issue does not make it into Parliament for debate. The Green Paper is due to consider new proposals for improving services and increasing focus on preventative activity.

The Department for Education’s immediate response to the petition, published on the petition website, said: “We need to make mental illness an everyday concern for all of us and in every one of our institutions – schools have an important role to play.

“We want schools to be able to decide themselves how to teach their pupils about mental health – developing their own local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, drawing on resources and evidence provided by expert organisations.”

Adam Shaw, founder of the Shaw Mind Foundation, said he was delighted with the “overwhelming support”.

However, he added: “Despite the popular support and importance of this issue, there is a chance that the government will not consider our petition for debate and will use the new deadline and the dissolution of Parliament as cover to bury this issue.

“Mental health education as a small part of PSHE lessons has failed to give adequate weight to the subject, and it is not taught uniformly across the country.

“If the government fails to consider this issue for debate, it’ll be taken as an indication by the mental health community that they do not really care about improving how mental health is taught.”


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