Prime Minister Theresa May should make a manifesto commitment to address the “mental health crisis” in classrooms, a royal-backed charity has said.
YoungMinds, the country’s leading charity on mental health issues for young people, has said that the education system is “fundamentally unbalanced” and must shift its focus towards the well-being of students.
It comes after Prince Harry was praised for his bravery after revealing in an interview with The Daily Telegraph he had sought counselling to help come to terms with the death of his mother.
The Prince spoke to The Telegraph's Bryony Gordon for the first episode of her podcast, Mad World, in which she will interview high-profile guests about their mental health experiences.
He disclosed that he had endured two years of "total chaos" while struggling in his late twenties to come to terms with losing his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
The YoungMinds report, which will be officially launched in parliament on Tuesday, said: “Schools will have different baseline standards of wellbeing, based on demographics and other factors. Comparing schools directly may be misleading, but measurement is essential to drive improvement.
“The Government should provide schools with the tools to measure their own progress in this area, and results should be published and available to pupils and parents.”
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a group of mental health and children’s charities have called for mental health to be an integral part of teacher training.
The charities have also written to the Prime Minister about the issue, in a letter that was also signed by more than 2,500 teachers, 1,000 mental health professionals, 4,500 parents and 1,200 young people, urging her to rebalance the education system.
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said that the education system is "heavily skewed" so that schools focus on academic achievement rather than well-being.
“It is crucial that the new government makes the mental health of our children an absolute priority," she said. "At a time when rates of self-harm are skyrocketing, and when teachers are seeing a sharp rise in anxiety and stress among their students, this cannot be right.”
Last week, a school was praised by Prince Harry for putting mental health on equal footing with physical education.
Rather than traditional PE lessons, students at Global Academy, a university technical college in Hayes, west London, have a weekly one hour a week of physical well-being classes and one hour a week of mental wellbeing class.
Prince Harry, who officially opened the school on Thursday along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Thursday, said the school’s approach will encourage young people to speak about their feelings.
He told students that “mental health has been viewed as quite a dry depressing subject for a lot of people. And [as] soon as you talk about it, it actually, it turns people away.
“So, you can bring that light hearted humour to it and encourage people to just to speak about it... [it will put] a smiles on people’s faces.”
The school, which was set up by the commercial radio tycoon Ashley Tabor to, teaches vocational media skills for 14 to 19-year-old alongside academic qualifications.
Mr Tabor, whose company Global runs more than a dozen radio stations including Classic FM and LBC, said he wanted the school to have a culture of mental well-being underpinning its ethos.
“When I founded the school it was important to me because we want the kids to be prepared for life not just prepared for life not just for work,” he said.
“The essence of it to make children feel comfortable to open up if they need to. Having a culture of openness definitely helps with academic achievement too.”
Prince Harry, along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited the school on Thursday for its official opening.
It followed five days of intense campaigning by the young royals on the issue, with Prince Harry speaking of his own therapy, and the Duke of Cambridge disclosing he still feels the shock of their mother's death.
Letter to The Daily Telegraph
Children and young people face a huge range of pressures - from exams to cyber-bulling, from body image to finding a job when they finish education. An estimated three children in every class have a mental health condition, one in four experience emotional distress, and rates of self-harm are skyrocketing.
Alongside 2,000 teachers, 1,000 mental health professionals, 4,000 parents and 1,000 young people, we have written to the Prime Minister urging her to address the mental health crisis in our classrooms. We are now calling on all parties to make manifesto commitments to do the same.
While it is not the role of schools to replace the specialist support that mental health services provide, they can and should play a crucial role in developing the skills young people need to cope and flourish in today’s world. But at the moment the education system is fundamentally unbalanced, with an over-emphasis on exams and too little focus on student well-being.
We want to see greater recognition for good work schools do on well-being, proper funding for well-being initiatives, and mental health as an integral part of teacher training. It is time to ensure that the well-being of students is as important as academic achievement in schools.
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of National Children’s Bureau
Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Samaritans
Dr. Peter Hindley, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Heidi Stewart, Director of Enterprise & Innovation, Rethink Mental Illness
Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health Foundation
Julie Bentley, Chief Executive of Girlguiding & Girlguiding’s Youth Advocate Panel
Denise Hatton, Chief Executive of YMCA England
Chris Martin, Chief Executive of The Mix
Jo Hobbs, Chief Executive of British Youth Council
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society
Dr Hadyn Williams, Chief Executive of British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Martin Pratt, Chief Executive of Association of Child & Adolescent Mental Health
Jamie Bristow, Director of The Mindfulness Initiative
Adam Shaw, Chairman of The Shaw Mind Foundation
Evan Grant, Trustee of Cameron Grant Memorial Trust