Mental Health Foundation unveils mental health in schools project

17 October 2017

The Mental Health Foundation today unveiled its new mental health in schools project. The Peer Education Project sees students become the teachers, with year 12 pupils teaching year 7 pupils about mental health.

New survey data released today by the Foundation suggests the project is a timely one. Of 2,000 parents surveyed, almost half of parents (46.35%) have never raised the issue of mental health with their children. This was despite two thirds of parents admitting they believe there is more pressure on their children's mental health than there was for their own generation.

The survey also revealed that:

  • 70% agreed that all young people should be taught about mental health at school, and a quarter thought that it was already compulsory
  • 43% of parents expressed concern that schools focus too much on attainment at the expense of the pupil’s wellbeing
  • 44% went as far as to say they felt pessimistic about the world their children will enter once they finish their school years.

The charity’s flagship Peer Education pilot project in schools sees students learning from each other. New evaluation data released today, over half (57%) of the year 7 pupils who took part said it was ‘very helpful’ to learn about mental health from a peer educator rather than their usual teacher.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis from the Mental Health Foundation, who commissioned the study to mark the launch of the project, said: “we know that 50% of adult mental health problems are already established by the age of 14, and yet mental health education is still not compulsory at schools.

It is crucial that we reach young people early and give them the knowledge and skills they will need to understand and protect their mental health in today’s complex world.”

Over 700 students responded to the Foundation’s survey evaluating the project. Among the findings released today:

  • 38% had moved below the clinical threshold for emotional difficulties
  • 40% had moved below the threshold for behavioural difficulties
  • 50% of students improved on knowing what stigma was
  • 28% of students gained a deeper understanding of discrimination
  • 21% of students improved their ability to talk openly about their mental health
  • 98% of Peer Educators and 88% of Year 7 students would ‘definitely’ or ‘maybe’ recommend that others take part in the programme

Fiorella Massey, Chair of Friends of the Foundation which funds the project said:

“We are building a movement. By working directly with young people, the next generation, we can end mental health stigma and see the birth of a culture where people feel able to speak openly about their mental health and get support early should they need it, before things reach crisis point.

The friends Of the Foundation fundraising committee have incubated this exciting project since its inception, and we look forward to seeing it go to new heights”

Helen Bohan who leads the schools pilot project for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “It is incredibly encouraging to see students rise to the challenge of educating and supporting others with their mental health.

“We hope that government wake up to the need for young people to learn about mental health from a young age and join us in equipping a generation for the challenges they will face by rolling out innovative solutions like this nationwide.”