It is clear that there is still a colossal stigma attached to mental health, when in reality most people will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their lives. Although few people are brave enough to talk about it, the question is, what if our children need to hear adults talk out loud about it?

Teaching is a very demanding, unpredictable career and for those prone to suffer from illness’ such as anxiety, it can be difficult to deal with the pressures of being a teacher and caring for your own mentality, let alone being mindful of those that are constantly around you.

At the end of the day, we all have mental health and whether we are coping with grief, stress or a mental illness, it will surface at some point. So why don’t we speak more openly and search for solutions with students instead of hiding it away?

As a result of TV shows such as ‘13 Reasons Why‘ trying to break the controversy surrounding the subject, young people are hearing more and more about depression and self harm but no one is teaching them how to cope with these feelings or what to do if they start experiencing a mental illness.

The reality is that these problems do exist and its time for schools and teachers to open up and tackle the difficulties we all face together to help students through, what will be, some of the most difficult and confusing years of their lives.

A petition has been launched by Headucation UK demanding to make mental health education compulsory in all schools nationwide and has over 75,000 signatures. With one in three students struggling with a mental illness it is important to address and inform the younger generation on how to deal with it.

If ignored, students who are struggling with their mental health may not know how to cope and in a period of their lives where they are making crucial decisions about their future, they shouldn’t be left to deal this alone.

As adults, we often forget how stressful and mentally challenging school years can be, the never-ending pressure regarding results, the confusion as the body and mind changes along with bullying. Suicide has become the third leading cause of death amongst young people with over a half of those deaths related to bullying, it is clear that educational establishments have to help and protect its pupils.

Following the shocking statistics that have been brought to light, it is now more important than ever to create a school environment where mental health is valued and can be discussed in a safe and welcoming manner.

So whilst we attribute great importance to academic and physical achievements, it is also integral to consider making room in every school’s curriculum for mental health classes. These would inform students about issues, how to recognise and cope with them and how to help their friends who could also be struggling, creating a sense of community in the classroom.

It is important to attempt to break the stigma at a young age so that these students don’t feel like many adults do; embarrassed to speak up because we live in a time where mental illness is associated with weakness, when in fact speaking about it symbolises strength.

By allowing students to talk freely about emotions without judgement it would then be easier for those who need help to be diagnosed at an early stage and this would also result in the prevention of conditions before they become chronic or lead to self-harm, even saving lives.

With all this in mind, take the first step this year and attribute a lesson to mental health and permit open discussion between students freely in a safe environment. By doing this you will be making mental health a teachable moment that your pupils will forever thank you for.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues of any kind or know someone who is, view our free resources for tips and advice on how to identify, cope and manage here.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for further support, view our useful websites page here.