This World Mental Health Day, let’s make a real difference

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October 10, 2023

Today is World Mental Health Day, where we celebrate good mental health as a universal human right. Everyone has either been through their own struggles with mental health or is close to someone who has. There will be many of us who may experience mental health issues but don’t have the understanding or language to realise or articulate the problem. Anyone with a phobia is actually suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anyone who has an irrational fear of certain situations or locations has an anxiety issue. Anyone who has suffered adverse experiences in childhood is at risk of developing a mental health disorder.

This sheer volume of mental health issues has given us a wealth of data to help us understand the causes of mental health issues, the risk factors, and the interventions and techniques we can use to correct those issues and prevent them from even taking hold. This enormous data set is telling us that most mental health disorders develop before the age of 14. Our childhood is where we develop emotionally and cognitively, and school is the place where we experience a lot of that development, with trained professionals dedicated to helping us to grow into healthy, fulfilled and educated adults.

And yet, with an ever-increasing number of mental health issues in children, and with specialist services under unprecedented levels of strain, we do not train our teachers in mental health awareness. A child with an anxiety disorder might interact with teachers, teaching assistants, lunchtime supervisors, head teachers and club leaders, none of whom are required to have any mental health training.

When I trained to teach I did a one-year PGCE in Primary Education. I learned grammar that my Masters in English Literature had never required. I learned maths again, almost from scratch. I was trained to deliver science, design technology, P.E., music, geography, history, art, coding and ICT… And when a child first had an anxiety attack in my classroom, I didn’t know the simplest breathing exercise to calm them down.

This inspired me to use my position within the NHS to engage with a team of incredible professionals specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for children and build training content for teachers just like me, who are passionately invested in developing and safeguarding children. We’ve joined forces to call for change.

On this Mental Health Awareness Day, Blue Mental Health Solutions is calling for mental health awareness training to be made mandatory for all Initial Teacher Training in England. Our teachers give so much of themselves to their profession and the children in their care…. In today’s mental health epidemic, let’s at least give them the tools to succeed.

Daniel Sullivan – Education and Training Lead, Blue Mental Health Solutions

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