By the age of 16, three children in every class will have experienced a mental health problem (SAMH, 2017). Therefore, it is essential that we start getting it right for every child. A knowledge and understanding of mental health can be crucial when it comes to early interventions. This is why one of the Our Minds Our Future Scotland recommendations is:
“Young people, and those who work with them, should be better educated about mental health, which will help to reduce stigma.”
Having suffered with mental health difficulties on and off from a young age, I really believe being better educated about mental health would have made a massive impact on me and my recovery.
“Well here I am again, locked in a cubical, crying on the grubby bathroom floor.”
At the age of 15, this was a weekly occurrence in my life. Almost every maths lesson I knew this is where I would end up. I had not long started Higher maths at school, and was desperate to do well after being inspired to become a maths teacher by my teacher the year before. However, as it turned out, anxiety and depression had other plans for me. Not that I knew what either of those things were.
I really enjoyed maths, but I found it really difficult to understand. When I struggled to get my head round things in class, my brain would go into total meltdown. It would tell me I was a failure and that I wasn’t good enough. Then the panic would begin and I would have to excuse myself to go and breakdown. Eventually, my teacher would have to come looking for me and she’d find me in a mess, unsure what to do, and how to help make it better. How could she know what to do if neither of us knew what was actually going on with me?
Nearly ten years on, I now know that I was suffering from anxiety and depression. My poor mental health went on to follow me from school in to my university years. It wasn’t until I was actually about 20 that I started to understand what was going on with me and what mental health really was. With this knowledge, I was able to seek the appropriate support to help me get better. I just wish I had had this knowledge sooner.
I also believe that my teachers who were working with me through my struggles would have benefited from having a greater awareness and knowledge of mental health problems in young people. My teachers struggled to know how to help me, and that further education could have been key in helping them to support me.
Although I lacked an understanding of mental health as a teenager, I was eventually able to get help. However, other young people might not be so lucky if we don’t act now.