One in four people will experience some sort of mental health issue in their life, including 10% of all children. Suicide is widely known as the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29, with depression being a major risk factor. These statistics highlight how much mental health touches our lives, yet for many a sense of stigma is still present.
A study from 2007 revealed that anticipated negative attitudes were a crucial factor for those with mental health concerns as to whether or not they sought help. With this in mind, the question in many experts minds is – why aren’t we teaching children about the brain and how it works?
If a child breaks a limb, everyone talks about it – from teachers and parents to friends at school. Doctors explain why it hurts and how it will mend. In contrast to this however, when a child becomes depressed, there is no frank discussion about what could be wrong with their brain, why they feel the way they feel and what could help them. While treatments are available – there is often a big gap in knowledge when it comes to explaining the processes taking place in the brain.
Those well versed in neuroscience know for example that you cannot simply ‘snap out’ of deep depression – many studies show that there are abnormalities in the way a depressed brain works.
Of course life circumstances have a part to play in the development of depression, however the illness itself is a physical manifestation. Understanding this can help to shift perceptions of blame and weakness to an acknowledgment that the brain is not healthy.
A programme of education in schools could help teach children about mental health and bring about a real change in the way society views it. Potentially this could provide a long-term solution to the issue of ignorance about mental health and encourage discussion, helping the next generation understand mental health issues with more clarity.