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

Indeed. I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for putting that on the record.

I pay tribute to UsActive, a Newcastle-based charity, whose representatives I met recently. It uses physical activity to promote better mental health for children and young people in my local area, and highlights the interrelated nature of physical and mental health in young people’s lives. I absolutely agree with the concerns that the petition raises. We must highlight the link between our physical and mental health if we are to get the best outcomes for our children holistically and educationally.

I agree that the earlier that children and young people are educated about these issues, the better. We must properly support them throughout their childhood, help them to develop resilience so they can deal with any issues they face, prepare them for adult life, help them to develop coping mechanisms for the many challenges that life will bring, and ensure that they become well-rounded individuals capable of empathy and understanding for others, whether friends, family members or work colleagues, who will inevitably be affected by mental health issues. They should recognise that such issues are as much a part of everyday life as physical health concerns.

I am delighted that I have a local link to the creator of the e-petition through my constituent Reverend Mark Edwards, who works closely with the Shaw Mind Foundation to raise awareness about mental health. Mark recently published a book via Trigger Press about his mental health journey entitled “Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE”. It details how he went from spending the majority of his childhood in foster care and being sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 to being a team vicar at St Matthew’s church in Dinnington in my constituency, a volunteer first responder with the North East Ambulance Service, police chaplain to the Northumbria police and a former volunteer lifeboat crew member—all of which led to his being awarded an MBE. Mark has shared his experience because, in his own words:

“So many people’s stories end in tragedy either because they suffer in silence or because they feel there is no support for them and that they are the only one suffering mental health issues.”

Crucially, he wanted to share his story to illustrate that “there is always hope”. Mark’s story is a powerful one, and would be if it were included in any mental health education delivered in schools.