Mental Health Education in Schools — [Mr Graham Brady in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 6th November 2017.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North 4:30 pm, 6th November 2017

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered e-petition 176555 relating to mental health education in schools.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady, and to lead this debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee, given the importance of this issue for society as a whole and because of the frequency with which young people raise it with me whenever I visit local schools and youth organisations in Newcastle upon Tyne North. The e-petition, entitled “Make mental health education compulsory in primary and secondary schools”, has been signed by more than 103,000 people. It reads:

“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.”

I am pleased that many hon. Members are present today. That reflects the importance and timeliness of the debate. Many other hon. Members would like to be here but are unable to attend, and I am happy to put their concerns on the record. My hon. Friend Vernon Coaker asked me to convey his constituents’ concerns, even though he is unable to be here himself.

I congratulate the e-petition’s creators—Tom King, a student mental health nurse, and Adam Shaw, the chairman of the Shaw Mind Foundation—on securing more than 100,000 signatures in the three months before the e-petition was closed just before the unexpected general election. Adam Shaw launched the e-petition as part of his charity’s wider HeaducationUK campaign. He explained why he established it:

“Currently mental health is only taught as an optional component of PSHE—but this is not good enough. It needs to be compulsory. Understanding mental health is an absolute life skill, and should be just as fundamental within the school curriculum as reading and writing. There needs to be a compulsory collaboration and integration between mental health education and physical education, so that children and young people can understand that maintaining good mental health is equally vital to their wellbeing.”

The HeaducationUK website states:

The UK national curriculum puts a lot of emphasis on teaching our children about how our bodies work, physical illnesses, and how exercise and nutrition can keep us healthy. These are taught in mandatory subjects such as PE (physical education) and biology…Currently, mental health education is taught inconsistently in the UK, and only in secondary schools—despite 1 in 5 children experiencing a mental health difficulty before the age of 11.”