According to the CDC, 7.1 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety. 3.2% have been diagnosed with depression. Relatedly, suicide is now the 3rd highest cause of death in people aged 10-24. The millions of kids who deal with issues that have been culturally stigmatized as “adult-only” problems probably feel lost. Their parents probably don’t know what to do.
Mental health would be a significant addition to a school syllabus to address this issue. If school is intended to prepare kids for life, how can mental health be considered any less than part of that preparation? The answer to how this should be applied in all schools, however, may be a little more complicated.
What kids are being told in school
When kids are young and in school, they receive a lot of conflicting information. They are told never to bully others far more often than how to mentally deal with being bullied. They are constantly bombarded with the idea that tests scores and numbers define their careers for the rest of their lives. However, they are not told how to mentally cope with a bad grade, or deal with the pressure of being defined by a score out of 100.
Physical health is a mandated aspect of schools in the United States, intended to promote self-responsibility and, hopefully, enjoyment of physical activity for a lifetime. In response to how much information and stress modern kids have to process, curricular mental health, in theory, should be used to promote just as much self-responsibility. Kids should enjoy mental activity for a lifetime as well!
But this depends partly on what mental health in a school syllabus ends up looking like.
Source: Unsplash @Dan Meyers
The Good and bad of teaching mental health
How everyone defines “mental health” is different. This could create programs that present conflicting information, potentially creating even more distance between kids and a healthy mental state. To use the PE example, do you have a lasting relationship with enjoying physical activity due to your experiences in PE? Maybe you do, but maybe you don’t.
However, the good outweighs the bad when it comes to teaching mental health, so long as it is utilized properly. Talking about mental health can help kids release a lot of stress, promoting healthy relationships with their peers. Training teachers on how to deal sensitively with mental health issues can also go a long way. Mindfulness, relaxation, and art should be included aspects of more curriculums, giving students a break from the stress of social media and test scores.
Additionally, these programs should not forget to address the mental health of teachers as well. Valuing teachers as part of this new curriculum could go a long way to improving the stress level of their classrooms.
Due to how the statistics are stacking up, dealing with mental health in schools is hardly even a question anymore – it’s a necessity. The way it is handled, however, relies on how we teach mindfulness, how open we are to unique mental health situations, and how the programs are implemented.
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