One of greatest issues facing our population is the ongoing struggle to support mentally strong and emotionally healthy citizens. We must, with urgency, focus efforts towards prevention and the achievement of optimal emotional health. One such avenue is through education. Curriculum can serve as a mechanism to build a comprehensive understanding and a multitude of avenues to support mental health and emotional wellbeing. This can play a crucial role in relation to prevention, personal safety and overall quality of life.
Opportunities for gained proficiency by students to keep themselves or others emotionally healthy is key. Important to this understanding is the recognition that students are empowered when they fully understand what it means to need help, where and how to access support and methodologies for achieving positive outcomes. In kind, the accumulative result of knowledge, understanding and awareness lends itself to increased personal resiliency and strategies to facilitate improved mental health. Collectively, this serves not only the person but also facilitates avenues for students to support friends in need.
In keeping with all of the above premises, the optimal outcomes are achieved through a progressive curriculum that builds in its capacity over the course of a student’s education. Methodical design, in an environment that promotes safe and open discussions, also serves as an effective avenue for breaking down long-held misconceptions and the many stigmas that have historically plagued efforts to advance mental health and emotional wellbeing.
“While the specific content of lessons will be determined by the specific needs of the cohort we’re teaching, there should always be an emphasis on enabling pupils of any age to develop the skills, knowledge, understanding, language and confidence to seek help, as needed, for themselves or others.” (1)
Research suggest that puberty is a precarious time with enhanced mental health vulnerability. Being aware of strategies to offset emotional challenges increases one’s ability to reduce or even circumvent the onset of a mental health crisis. It is important to also note that although a significantly higher percent of mental health issues arise in during adolescence, mental illness and challenges with emotional wellbeing can and do arise prior to age 10. Consequently, the argument to introduce curriculum in the early years is further supported. In keeping with this notion, curriculum would be developmental in its design, supporting the abilities and understanding of the students as they advance throughout the K-12 educational system.
“According to data collected by the Nuffield Foundation, in 2013, 80,000 children and young people in the UK were clinically depressed; 10% of these were under 10 years of age. They also found that 290,000 children and young people in the UK had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and one in three of these was under 10.2.” (2) Although the following data was attained via British research, one could speculate that findings across Alberta would be similar in frequency on a population basis. 8% of Canadian youth describe their mental health as poor.
It is well know that Alberta continues to struggles with soaring health care costs and limited access to mental health professionals. Thus, initiatives to prevent and improve mental health make sense on a number of levels. Be it quality of life or financial implications, a need for healthy productive populations builds a case for preventative mental health initiatives.
Through a curricular approach, students would gain an understanding of positive behaviors and associated strategies to incorporate into their personal arsenal to support them in the development of emotional wellbeing. Critical as well, is the ability to formulate healthy thoughts, behavioral patterns and strategies to facilitate the seeking of supports for either themselves or others. This gained knowledge and understanding equips the student for improved mental health and emotional wellbeing both now and long into the future. Swift action in implementing support through curriculum is urgently required in efforts to strengthen mental health and emotional wellbeing outcomes across this province.
I have attached a supporting document for your reference that may serve as a valuable resource to gain insight and perspective on my proposal (see attachment links on this site).
- PSHE Association, March, 2015, Preparing To Teach About Mental Health And Emotional Wellbeing, https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/guidance-preparing-teach-about-mental-health-an
- PSHE Association, March, 2015, Preparing To Teach About Mental Health And Emotional Wellbeing, https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and-resources/resources/guidance-preparing-teach-about-mental-health-and