A recent report by the Children's Commissioner for England has unveiled the shocking reality of over 800,000 children who are suffering from mental health problems in England alone. One in 10 young people experience a mental health problem at any one time - that is around three children in every class. It is concerning that even with the knowledge that there is such a high prevalence of mental health problems in children throughout the UK; a mental health problem still regularly results in children suffering negative outcomes, particularly in their school lives. Research suggests that children with mental health problems in the UK are at a disadvantage in school both academically and socially.
Evidence shows that children with mental health issues are reported to achieve lower levels of educational attainment and progression, with higher levels of school absence. It has also been found that children with mental health issues have a much higher risk of social problems within school. This group of children are at higher risk of expulsion due to behavioural problems. In addition, children with mental health problems are also more likely to be the target of their fellow students' bad behaviour. It has been found that more students with mental health disorders in the UK are bullied than children without. In one study, 60% of students with mental health disorders report being bullied compared to 25% of students in general.
It is clear that these findings introduce a challenge to schools throughout England to effectively cater for these vulnerable children, ensuring the best educational environment for both each individual's academic improvement and the individual's social adjustment with his/her peers. It is important to remember that mental health is something everyone has and must care for just as is the case with physical health. Open conversations about the subject which both encourage and support positive mental health as well as addressing the topic of mental health problems, can be beneficial for both teachers and pupils.
These open conversations on the subject can educate teachers and staff on both how to effectively identify students with potential mental health disorders and how to deal with and cater to these students so as to enhance their everyday experience at school. Furthermore, introducing an open forum within schools is vital in order to educate pupils on the sometimes-invisible differences that might be present between their minds and their fellow students' minds. This in turn enables students to have a better understanding of the differences in behaviour that some of their peers may display, which might otherwise lead to alienation or even bullying.
Talking about mental health is also fundamental in preventing students with mental health disorders from feeling alone and/or alienated from their fellow students. With the help of trained experts, this conversation can offer students the opportunity to discuss mental health in a safe and understanding space. Not only will this help to identify issues early but will also give young people the knowledge of the support available both in school and outside.
Altruist Enterprises are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the delivery of 60 free mental health awareness workshops in schools. To find out more and to show your support, please click here