500 signatures reached
To: The Minister of Education
The ACT Campaign for Mental Health Education
We want to make five changes to the current education system:
1) Make mental health education/social emotional learning mandatory in the curriculum.
2) Ensure that this education is maintained to a high standard through inspections.
3) Have a mental health lead in each school.
4) More communication between schools and the HSE mental health services.
5) Prioritise the mental health of teachers.
Why is this important?
We are not criticising teachers. They are already overwhelmed with looking after the academic, emotional, social, physical and mental development of their students. We are not criticising schools. They are just doing their best to remain open to provide education for our future generations. And we are not blaming the government. They have the difficult job of choosing what departments get funding, and what departments unfortunately miss out. Instead, this campaign is emphasising that we as a society need to keep up to date with how the world is changing. According to UNICEF, Ireland ranks number 4th in the EU for adolescent suicide rates and number 1 in the EU for female adolescent suicide rates. On top of this, the number of young girls aged 10 – 14 presenting with self harm has rose by 189% in the decade preceding Covid. It is very clear that we have a problem.
The SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) curriculum has not been updated in 20 years and think about how much the world has changed since 1999. If you read the SPHE curriculum, it states several fabricated outcomes such as teaching children self-confidence, how to deal with difficult feelings and how to cope with new situations. But there is no evidence that this curriculum is working? In fact, statistics are showing that it is not working. SPHE is really important and the curriculum is actually very well written. It is essentially teaching children how to successfully operate as independent individuals; how to live. However, it is squeezed into 30 minutes a week. Imagine trying to promote academic development by putting maths, English, history, geography, business and science all together into one subject and teaching it for a half an hour a week. Impossible, yet this continues with SPHE.
The introduction of Covid-19 is likely to change the education system forever. As schools were forced to adapt to technological transformations, child mental health continued to deteriorate. It was a problem before, and research from Oxford University is showing that it's an even bigger problem now. Intervention is important but prevention is more effective, both in terms of health and financial outcomes. Global warming is clearly happening and there are people flying less, becoming vegan and recycling more (which is fantastic). On the other hand, there are children taking their lives as young as 10 and the only thing we’re doing is telling people to talk? Just have a think about that for a second.
This is important because it can save lives. The consequences of not seeing this change is children continuing to have a low quality of life or worse again, taking their lives and leaving behind devastated families. Don't wait until there is a problem. Change the curriculum and the education around mental health and we'l see the stigma reduced, we'l promote the potential of every child and we'l prevent problems before they happen. Thank you.