Call for curriculum change as one third of parents do not feel there is enough mental health education

  • One third (33%) of adults with children aged 18 and under Scotland do not feel that there is enough mental health education within their child’s school curriculum
  • 43 per cent of adults with children 18 and under who go to school in Scotland said they do not feel they have been provided with enough support, information or advice from their child’s school to support their child’s mental health
  • Mental Health Foundation Scotland proposes range of measures to safeguard and promote children’s mental health and wellbeing

Mental Health Foundation Scotland is calling for the next Scottish Government to embed mental health education within the Curriculum for Excellence, giving every pupil the tools to protect and improve their mental health and tackle stigma.  

The move which will likely gain support from parents and students as two thirds of adults in Scotland (66%) agree that scheduled time in schools and colleges dedicated to mental health, wellbeing and personal development will help children thrive both emotionally and academically.
The You Gov poll¹ of 1,024 adults in Scotland asked a range of questions about mental health including asking people with school-aged children about their thoughts on support available at school.  Respondents were broadly supportive of the inclusion of mental health education such as classes for children on how to manage their emotions, learning where to get help if they are struggling with their mental health, and how to manage the modern-day challenges young people face such as exam stress, online bullying and concerns about their body image.
Lee Knifton, Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “Following a year which has seen the biggest disruption to children’s education in 80 years, we must ensure that mental health education becomes an integral part of school life.  Two of the greatest barriers to children receiving mental health support are low levels of mental health literacy and fear of stigma, yet today mental health education is still not a core part of the Scottish school curriculum. If we are to build a Wellbeing Society that supports good mental health for all, a starting point must be providing all children and young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to recognise and cope with challenges and life situations that put their mental health at risk.
“Even prior to the pandemic, the rate of children and young people experiencing mental health problems across Scotland was rising, with research showing that the happiness and confidence young people feel in their lives has fallen².  Delivering mental health education within our schools could help prevent mental health problems in childhood and increase the likelihood that those children will thrive throughout their lives.”
In its Wellbeing Society manifesto, the Foundation also calls for further investment in support for parents and carers, and a mentoring programme for children at risk of poverty, exclusion or adversity. Additionally, it urges the next Scottish Government to establish a Health and Wellbeing Fund for schools which will allow Head Teachers to invest in pupil wellbeing in the aftermath of COVID-19.  The fund will aim to reduce prevalence of emotional distress through evidence-based peer-to-peer programmes, youth work and family support initiatives.
Jacqueline Pollock is Pastoral Head at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk.  The school is one of five in Scotland that piloted the Mental Health Foundation’s Peer Education Project which involves training older (S5) pupils to deliver mental health lessons to younger (S1) pupils.  It aims to bypass the walls that many young people might feel if the discussions were led by an adult teacher who they may consider to be less able to understand their personal experiences.   
Jacqueline said: “Taking part in the Peer Education Project pilot was such a valuable experience for our school.  It has really helped make mental health a prominent priority in our school.
“The benefits to the junior pupils when it comes to nurturing, support and mental health literacy are clear. There are so many benefits for the S5 pupils too, for their confidence, skills development and understanding of how good it feels to help others. It is wonderful to see the dialogue about wellbeing between pupils.  We are now ready to start our third year of the programme and are definitely going to continue.  In a couple of years we will be coming full circle as our first group of peer learners will become peer educators.”
For further information about Mental Health Foundation Scotland’s recommendations for the new Scottish Government, read the manifesto ‘A Wellbeing Society:  Delivering Good Mental Health For All’ at 
For further information and interview requests please contact Claire Fleming at Mental Health Foundation Scotland on email [email protected] or phone 07511 076 870 
Notes to Editors
¹All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1024 adults (of which 227 were parents of school-aged children). Fieldwork was undertaken between 2 - 4 March 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+). You Gov
²Johnston L., Santhakumaran D., Goddard N., McGuire Z., Sweeney C. (2018). Children and young people’s mental health. Audit Scotland: Edinburgh. Available from:  
And The Princes’ Trust (2018). Youth Index 2018. Retrieved from: 

About the Mental Health Foundation   

• Our vision is of good mental health for all.   
• The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems.   
• We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk.   
• The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.