Why we need to prioritise children and young people’s mental health

A female teacher sitting with a group of school children at a table

Today is World Mental Health Day and the purpose of it is to raise the awareness of mental health and drive positive change for the future. 

This annual awareness day is run by the Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading charity for everyone’s mental health. They drive positive change towards a mentally healthy society for all. They aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems in order for people and communities to thrive.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, “75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need”. This is a growing concern and it needs to be acted upon as soon as possible. The consequences of not addressing the mental health development of children and young people can extend to adulthood which can limit their opportunities of leading a fulfilling life.

Schools need to prioritise children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, after all this is at the heart of education. Inclusive approaches to education can support pupil’s mental health and wellbeing which in turn can help to keep them in school. Increasing amounts of children are absent from school every year and we need to do all we can to get them back into school.

We recently co-hosted a panel at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, in which the panel discussions centred around inclusive approaches and tackling exclusions at school. The panel consisted of a great line-up of speakers, including the Chair of Commission on Young Lives; Anne Longfield, the Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit; Lib Peck, Cabinet Member for Education; Cllr Anntionette Bramble, and our CEO Arti Sharma. It was an invigorating discussion about how nurturing approaches can positively impact pupils’ mental health and wellbeing so that they can remain in school and succeed with their education. It was recommended at the conference that more schools should adopt a whole-school nurturing approach. This can be the positive change that children and young people so desperately need.

The priority of schools should be to meet children and young people’s social, emotional and mental health needs. Many children and young people have experienced significant trauma in their lives, including bereavement, neglect and abuse, or witnessing parents experiencing mental health problems or substance abuse. All of these experiences can negatively affect their mental health. As a result, they may have difficulties with attention, learning and emotional control. These difficulties may translate into aggression, anger outbursts and challenging behaviours. 

With sufficient nurture and support from adults, children can develop the skills and resilience they need to cope with stressful experiences and improve their mental health, in turn allowing them to become ready to learn at school.

To find out more about the nurturing approach and why we recommend implementing it across the whole school, please click here.