‘Transform school culture to boost mental health’

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Natasha Devon says:

“I suppose all of these endeavours are like applying Factor 50, but no one is turning down the heat”

“Last week, Damian Hinds announced that there would be mandatory mental health education in all primary and secondary schools across England from 2020. The education secretary’s proposal states that children should be taught how to be more ‘resilient’ (anyone else growing weary of that word?), the benefits of healthy eating and keeping fit and how to spot the signs that one of their classmates is struggling with their mental wellbeing.

This caused the inevitable cries of delight on social media, meaning that its work as a piece of positive PR for the DfE was effectively done. Some of my respected colleagues in mental health campaigning declared it to be a victory for our community. A triumph. A testament to all of our hard work. Everyone seemed pleased. Everyone, that is, except me.

Back in my early days as the government’s ‘mental health champion’ (an appointment which was announced with a similar amount of fanfare in 2015, along with £1.5 billion of funding which, it transpired, was not to be ringfenced), something a teacher said really struck a chord with me. I had been wheeled out for some event or other and, still incredibly green and therefore optimistic about the whole situation, was attempting to convey the extent of the government’s commitment to tackling poor mental health in young people using a range of projects, such as peer support and pilot schemes to strengthen relationships between schools and child and adolescent mental health services (anyone know how those are going, by the way?). A teacher in the audience responded with: ‘I suppose all of these endeavours are like applying Factor 50, but no one is turning down the heat’ …”

Read more here.

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