Young people on NHS-affiliated panel say placing subject on national curriculum is key to helping prevent problems in later life.
Mental health should be placed on the national curriculum for primary school children, an NHS-affiliated advisory group has said.
The Young People’s Mental Health Advisory Group, which was set up by the NHS’s clinical research network, said that if problems were to be prevented or dealt with effectively later, it was essential to address the issue early.
Susannah Page, a member of the group, said: “The first step [in dealing with mental health] is by tackling the stigma, and the way to do that is, while people are still young and learning, to talk to them about what mental health is and how you can get good mental health. It should definitely be part of the national curriculum, in common with sex education.
“To get access to many young people, the best way to that is through schools. The best time is the transition between primary and secondary school because that is the age people may start experiencing mental health problems.”
Around one in 10 children and young people in the UK have a mental health disorder. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health puts the figure at 850,000 and says 75% of these do not get the help they need, often because of a lack of awareness in those around them. Studies suggest there is a strong correlation between childhood and adolescent mental health difficulties, and problems in adulthood.
The advisory group comprises 14 16- to 24-year-olds with either direct or indirect (through friends or family members) experience of mental health problems. Earlier this year, members of the group met the chief medical officer for England and Wales, Sally Davies, and told her its vision for schools.