Should mental health science be included within the curriculum?

A new campaign backed by UK business and education leaders to include the science of mental health within the national curriculum has been launched. 

The Teach Mental Health Science campaign is calling for the UK Government to include the science of mental health as part of the national science curriculum, up to and including Key Stage 4 (and equivalents). 

The campaign aims for young people to explore the biology, psychology and social influences behind mental health, as well as the links between physical and mental health, in their science lessons. This is not currently the case as the national curriculum has a negligible focus today on the scientific basis of mental health. 

The campaign cites new research, published by EY, which indicates clear support in favour of these proposals. EY’s research found that over four-fifths (84%) of the general public and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) secondary school teachers are supportive of teaching secondary school students about the science of mental health.  

Mental health science education could:  

  • Equip and empower young people with important knowledge to live more fulfilling lives 
  • Lead to better wellbeing and productivity outcomes for young people over the course of their lives  
  • Lead to a reduction in stigma around mental health and mental illness, and a reduction in misconceptions around mental health and mental illness  

Aditya Sahu, a Sky executive and mental health advocate, founded the Teach Mental Health Science campaign after observing that, whilst the science of physical health is properly embedded in the national curriculum, the science of mental health is not. Simply, this campaign seeks to address this gap. 

The campaign has already generated significant private interest, and is being backed by a number of organisations and individuals including Sir Anthony Seldon (former Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham) and Natasha Devon (writer, broadcaster and mental health campaigner). 

In the coming months, the campaign will collaborate with the public, social and private sectors to make the case for curriculum change. It will argue that this is a simple and targeted, but highly impactful way to support young people and the education sector, particularly as the country emerges from the pandemic. 

Aditya Sahu, founder of Teach Mental Health Science, said: “As a country we’re missing a trick. We teach our children the science of physical health – but not the science of mental health. Closing this gap in the national science curriculum will be good for science and good for young people. Teach Mental Health Science aims to build a coalition of supporters to demonstrate to the UK Government that this is a low-risk, high-impact initiative with the potential to transform the way we think about mental health, and prepare our young people for fulfilling, healthy lives.” 

Anthony Seldon, supporter of the Teach Mental Health Science campaign said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this campaign, which can hopefully lead to improved wellbeing among young people. We know that both mental and physical health can severely impact development and participation in society, so it’s important that they are given equal attention in the classroom. We would like to call on all involved in the education system to back the campaign, so we can help protect the wellbeing of our young people.” 

Linsey Lunny, founder and CEO of Hidden Strength, said: “I am delighted to hear that a campaign has been put into motion to include the science of mental health in the curriculum. Teaching children the biology, psychology and social influences behind mental health would be incredibly beneficial as it will help them gain a better understanding as to how and why mental health affects a person and in turn, reduce the stigma that is sometimes attached. 

“Hidden Strength is a unique platform for young people that offers meaningful support and advice in a safe, anonymous environment. If the curriculum was to be expanded, there would be strong correlation between the two and users would hopefully be better informed when using our app. 

Hidden Strength is the sponsor of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Award at this year’s Educate Awards. 

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