Should schools be required to teach mental health? | The Tylt

Should schools be required to teach mental health?

As rates of depression and anxiety in teens continue to rise, many parents are looking to schools to educate their children on mental health. Some are calling for a mental health curriculum in health classes, saying this type of program would help curb the mental health epidemic and the stigma surrounding it. Others say that requiring mental health education would actually counter to this goal, and at best, would act as a band-aid. Real solutions require a wide array of stakeholders, including parents. What do you think? 

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According to a new poll by Parents and the Child Mind Institute, "More than 90% of parents think mental health should be taught in schools," and rightfully so. A recent report by the American Psychological Association states that people ages 15 to 21 have the worst mental health of any generation in the United States. 

As a result, parents and doctors alike are calling for increased education on things like anxiety, depression, disruptive disorders, mood disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. Parent's Julia Edelstein looked to child psychiatrist Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., for insight: 

'If I was the parent of a young child today, I would go to my school and say, "I would like the science curriculum or the health curriculum to include mental health disorders. These are the most common illnesses a child could have, and they should be taught with the same attention that you are teaching asthma and peanut allergies and diabetes and cancer."'
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Despite the increase in mental illness among children and teens, some feel that requiring mental health education in schools will have negative consequences, such as increasing the number of young adults who believe they suffer from a mental illness. Spectator's Charlotte Catherine Gill worries that a pervasive mental health curriculum will inevitably turn into obsession among kids and parents. 

After working extensively with children in America, where, Gill states, "psychiatry is all the rage," she writes:   

The kids there had perfect knowledge of what anxiety, depression, and the rest were, but never seemed any better for it. Some of them would interpret normal feelings as something sinister. Many took medication and walked around like zombies when it was play time.

According to Gill, requiring mental health education applies what is best for a minority to everyone. 

Educational policy makers seem to be intent on the idea that ‘knowledge is power’ for kids, but in many cases I do not believe this is the case: thinking about these issues, if they do not affect you, can be worrying. Essentially, in trying to reduce the stigma of mental health, it is possible to increase the suggestibility of it instead.
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In July of 2018, New York became the first state to require mental health education as a part of health class. According to Bustle, the curriculum will include information on a number of mental illnesses, as well as exercises in describing one's feelings and emotional intelligence. Bustle's Carolyn de Lorenzo reports: 

According to state guidelines, learning to practice self-care is an important part of the new curriculum, as is addressing stigmas as barriers to treatment. Students will also learn how to access resources if they or someone close to them is experiencing a mental health crisis.

Virginia will also integrate mental health education into health classes in public schools. Governing.com points out that the changes in New York and Virginia's state-wide education are long overdue, saying: 

These laws come at a time when teen suicide rates have doubled among girls and risen 30 percent among boys in recent years.

Schools, states, parents and teachers must all do their part to bridge understanding between mental and physical health. Requiring this type of education in health classes across the country is simply the first, logical step. 

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But not all parents agree. One mother of high school students in Virginia worries the state's new policy will teach students they are "broken." Leah Ida Harris writes on Medium that Virginia's state-wide mental health education requirement might lean too heavily on the relationship between physical and mental health, rather than on the relationship between mental health and one's circumstances. 

I am afraid that it is this invalid and shaming narrative that students will be taught—a medicalized, individualistic view that locates 'brokenness' completely in their 'chemically-imbalanced' brains and not at all in the world that shapes those developing brains and the bodies that house them.

Harris is a suicide-survivor herself. She believes a person's experiences can be just as responsible for causing or worsening depression, and could wrongly attribute other mental illnesses to chemical imbalances in the brain. She continues: 

Mandating mental health education for youth without addressing the root causes of their distress, and without naming our deeply problematic collective response, is like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. Such initiatives conveniently take the onus off of schools, communities, and states to take concrete actions to promote the well-being of young people and their families.
FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Should schools be required to teach mental health?
A festive crown for the winner
#TeachMentalHealth
#WillMakeThingsWorse