According to a recent study, nearly half of Australian students feel “very stressed” as a result of schooling – a figure that adds to a growing body of research that suggests students’ mental health is on the decline.
To combat this, one expert says it is time for mental health to be added to the school curriculum.
Michael Nagel, an associate professor and expert in human development and the psychology of learning at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said that mental health in the school curriculum would serve two important purposes.
“First, it provides young people with insights into mental health issues and strategies.
This is particularly important during adolescence when students are dealing with a range of issues themselves and as such any opportunity for engaging students in curricular activity around mental health is a positive for all students,” Professor Nagel told The Educator.
“Second, any aspect of mental health in curriculum signals to all students that mental health is just as important as physical health and not something to be ignored or stigmatised.”
Professor Nagel said mental health is not given enough credence and should be taught at all levels of schooling so students can identify it as important and worthy of consideration and discussion.
“It is interesting to note that in 2019 senior high school students in Queensland will be able to study Psychology as a subject area giving further recognition that understanding the mind is important, and as such, so is understanding mental health,” he said.
In terms of policy makers, Professor Nagel said all levels of education are best serviced by those who lead each individual organisation.
“In schools that means trusting the school leaders to implement programs they believe would be helpful,” he said.
“That being said, schools that have taken opportunities to implement mindfulness sessions, meditation and other types of mental health activities are reporting positive results in terms of student well-being and behaviour.”
As such, says Professor Nagel, any curricular activity should also be supported by practical activities to get the full benefit of instilling an understanding of mental health and how to be mentally healthy.