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Until We Teach Mental Health in Schools Stigma Will Always Exist

09/10/2015 17:06 BST | Updated 09/10/2016 10:12 BST

Stigma is a word that is used a lot when talking about mental illness. It is something that we mention as playing a key part in preventing people from getting help, something that needs eradicating completely. We talk about how damaging the stereotypes are and how crucial it is that we remove them in order to allow people to seek help.

That is absolutely something I support but I fear that the answer on how we tackle that stigma is being completely overlooked by those in charge.

If we really want to reduce the stigma and allow people to reach out and seek help, then we simply have to be teaching people about what mental illness is and introduce compulsory mental health education in schools.

Make no mistake about it, the stigmas attached to mental illness exist through ignorance and we can't really blame the general public for that. We simply don't know enough about what mental health is and what it means.

As wrong as the stigmas are, how can we blame people for believing them if they're not being taught why they are wrong? 

For many of us, the only time we hear about mental illness is through demonising and extreme stories in the news. The kind of stories that appear time and time again, with reports and headlines that are never challenged.

If we are never told why those stories are wrong, if we are never taught about the facts and commonness of mental illness, then how can we expect people to really understand?

Every single person in the world has mental health, which means at any given time in our lives, any of us can be affected by poor mental health. 

If ever we struggle with physical health, we know exactly what to do and where to turn. We don't particularly hesitate or feel embarrassed to find support because we know and trust the process. We understand that it doesn't make us weak and we generally know that we won't be judged for being unwell. 

But the same can't be said when it comes to our mental health.

Whether physical or mental, health should be treated the same across the board. We should be providing everyone, old or young, with the information and reassurance to know exactly what to do when our health isn't as it should be.

The fact that physical education is compulsory in schools while mental health education is being ignored is just wrong. Not teaching our kids about something that could affect any of them at any given time and allowing them to potentially live in fear and shame for something that is not only not their fault but also preventable and treatable  is beyond irresponsible - it is immoral. 

We should be doing everything we physically can to prepare our children for all the obstacles that life can present. We teach them about how much sugar is in their juice, the importance of a balanced diet and even about sexual health but not once are we teaching them about what to do if they feel unhappy. 

We don't have to be teaching our children about suicide or anything dark but we absolutely should be encouraging them to embrace and understand their mental wellbeing and we should, without a doubt, be reinforcing the fact that if something isn't right, then it ok to ask for help.

By overlooking mental health education in schools, we are failing to prepare our children for life. By not talking about mental health or normalising it as a subject, we are reinforcing all the stigmas we're campaigning against.

Stigma can only be defeated if people know and understand why it is wrong. We simply have to educate if we are ever going to make any real of difference.