Before beginning this blog, I want to say a few things about our coalition’s work. First, we are working very hard, advocating for far more funding for research into the biological causes for mental health diseases. There have been many posts on studies to substantiate the roles of genetics and epigenetics in mental health (brain) diseases. Please look back at the studies that we have blogged about as well as our petition. It’s gaining ground!
Now, I’m switching gears just a bit. In this blog I’ll be talking about the disturbing truth, that even in our schools, mental health is still not taken as seriously as physical health. Throughout the nation, state education systems have mandated that students learn about physical and nutritional health, but with the exception of beginning strides in only a few states, not about mental health.
Extra programs have been added to schools on social and emotional learning, but this is not the same as mandating mental health education to be a required part of the curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students. Physical education is mandated, so why not mental health education? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting for one moment that physical education is not important. It is very important. But so is mental health education!
Physical education class is required to help teach children about the value of nutrition and exercise. We teach them about staying fit and eating healthy. Health classes teach about diseases, safe sex, and nutrition. But mental health education? Not there. Is there any question why stigma still surrounds mental health disorders?
This mental health gap in curriculum has a potentially huge impact on society for generations to come, especially when considering that it is estimated that approximately 20-25% of children are experiencing a mental health condition at any given time.
Schools need to be portraying mental health as equally important and crucial as physical health. That starts with making mental health education a required part of education across all schools from kindergarten into high school. When you educate young people about mental health conditions, the conversation is normalized. In doing so, stigma is lifted. And when stigma is lifted, these young people are far more likely to reach out for help.
Please look at what California is doing in the area of education. No states’ mandates for mental health education are perfect, but we believe that the following is a great first start.
Please help us to help our children!
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