Andrew McCluskey

A petition to make mental health education mandatory in all primary and secondary schools in the UK has gathered over 35,000 signatures.

The petition aims to “increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people”. Tom King started the petition on behalf of the Shaw Mind Foundation, a charity that supports people with mental health problems and their carers.

Adam Shaw, one of the founders of the foundation, is himself in recovery from mental health issues. He said: “As a society, we are all collectively responsible and accountable for mental health issues. By not engaging in conversation, we are giving mental illness more power than it deserves. By simply talking to, and being open with, our children, family, friends and colleagues, we can begin the process of recovery from mental health issues without even consciously trying.”

The other founder, Lauren Callaghan, is a psychologist who has worked at the specialist national treatment centres for severe obsessional problems in the UK. Her area of expertise is diagnosing and treating Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety related illness.

According to The Mental Health Foundation, in 2013, 8.2 million people were diagnosed with anxiety. Women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and these diagnoses are also more common in less privileged areas.

Tom King is a currently studying to be a mental health nurse, and has spent time on numerous psychiatric wards during his course – including those for children and adolescents. He has also suffered from mental health issues, and has supported close friends and family with mental illness. He said: “Early intervention is key to supporting people with mental health issues, whether by educating them on symptoms or giving them the opportunity and confidence to speak out about how they are feeling.”

As the petition has over 10,000 signatures, the government is obliged to respond to it, although no formal statement has been given yet.

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