Sheffield man's campaign to get mental health taught in schools wins MP's support

Louise Haigh MP.
Louise Haigh MP.

A Sheffield man's campaign to make mental health education compulsory in schools has won key support from MPs.

Adam Shaw, who founded the The Shaw Mind Foundation after suffering mental health issues himself, launched an e-petition calling for the move which was signed by 103, 000 people in just three months.

Adam Shaw.

Adam Shaw.

The huge public response prompted MPs to debate the issue and the proposal yesterday won support from politicians who sit on the education select committee.

The move follows news that the Government is preparing a green paper on the issue - a document that will advise on how to turn the plan into a reality - which is due to be published later this year.

Labour MP for Newcastle North Catherine McKinnell told the meeting: "I would like to see a really bold message coming from the Government in the green paper that this issue has parity of esteem, and that we do not only talk about supporting better mental health within our education system but that the Government will take the steps to ensure that it is a priority and is delivered.

"The earlier that children and young people are educated about these issues, the better.

"We must properly support them throughout their childhood, help them to develop resilience so they can deal with any issues they face, prepare them for adult life, help them to develop coping mechanisms for the many challenges that life will bring."

MPs heard how the issue is a real problem as statistics from HeaducationUK showed 850, 000 UK children aged five to 16 have mental health problems, which equates to around three in every classroom.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said if changes are made then teachers need to be supported to implement this.

She cited another survey by HeaducationUK which found that "75 per cent of school leaders said they lacked the resources to meet the mental health needs of their pupils, citing the lack of training as one of the main contributing factors."

Ms McKinnell agreed: "Teachers and schools must be adequately resourced and trained for that.

"School budget cuts, which are resulting in vital services being axed, must stop, and the Government must seriously look again at those issues that are causing young people’s mental health to be so adversely affected."

Father-of-five Adam Shaw, who has battled extreme obsessive compulsive disorder, said: "Mental health education is still not part of the UK curriculum despite consistently high rates of child and adolescent mental health issues.

"By educating young people about mental health in schools, we can increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people.”