Raising awareness around mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 8-14 May, and this year rather than focusing on why so many people live with mental health problems, the campaign is uncovering why too few of us are thriving with good mental health.

Currently, suicide is the biggest killer of young people under the age of 35, with an average of 126 suicides being committed a week. This staggering figure is shocking and a real concern, and it’s something we should be actively trying to combat and reduce.

Generally speaking, the best way to tackle a problem is to work from the bottom-up. Therefore, we need to create a much larger awareness among a younger audience so that they recognise and understand the facts surrounding mental health, how to identify symptoms, and support individuals in a sensitive manner.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists states that 75 per cent of all mental health problems begin before the age of 21, therefore it’s crucial to build awareness and support children from the earliest opportunity.

Quite simply though, not enough is being done. A Censuswide poll commissioned by The Shaw Mind Foundation, found that 65 per cent of teens aged between 14 and 18 wouldn’t be able to identify if they were experiencing mental health problems because they don’t know enough about it.

Mental health education is currently taught as part of personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) lessons, but the trouble is that there just isn’t enough of a focus on what could potentially be a life or death situation for someone. More and more people are recognising the need to put it in the spotlight or even make it a compulsory subject; a YouGov poll found that 79 per cent of British parents believe children should be taught more about mental health in schools, with a further 80 per cent regarding their child’s mental health as a top concern.

One thing that’s clear is that mental health shouldn’t be confined to PSHE lessons. And luckily for us, the Health and Education Committees have recognised this in a recent joint inquiry into children and young people’s mental health, stating that a whole-school approach should be implemented. MP Neil Carmichael, chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, said: “Schools and colleges have a frontline role in tackling mental health and promoting wellbeing among children and young people.”

So what can we do?

There are various organisations, helplines and foundations out there raising awareness and supporting those individuals seeking help. Therefore, a good starting point is to let young people know where they can find support, as 45 per cent of young people don’t know where to go for help tackling personal problems, and one-in-five have had suicidal thoughts (2015 Connected Generation Report).

One option is to visit your GP, who may be able to refer you to specialist services if he/she feels they will help. Other organisations offering help, guidance and support are:

  • Mental Health Foundation provides a series of downloadable booklets covering topics such as “How to look after your mental health”
  • Samaritans offers free, confidential, emotional support 24 hours a day
  • The Shaw Mind Foundation provides a range of downloadable guides and links to crisis and support groups all over the world
  • Mind offers individuals a guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support
  • YoungMinds has a free parent helpline for confidential, expert advice

It’s vital that we improve mental health education and awareness within schools. We need to remove the stigma surrounding mental health so that it becomes something that children – and adults – no longer shy away from and feel comfortable discussing.


For more information, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week