Majority of parents do not speak to children about mental health, poll shows

Teachers are to receive extra training on helping pupils with mental health problems, it was announced today, as a poll revealed that more than half of parents do not speak to their children about the subject.

Of the 55 per cent of parents who did not raise the topic of mental health with their child, one in five (20 per cent) said they chose not to broach the subject because they didn’t know what to say, according to the survey of more than 1,000 parents in England.

The results have been released by the charity-run programme Time to Change as it launches a major campaign to reduce the stigma of mental health amongst teenagers and parents.

One in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem – which equates to three students in an average classroom. But the new survey, conducted by Opinion Matters, reveals that 45 per cent of parents said they hadn’t had a conversation about wellbeing, stress, anxiety or depression with their children as they didn’t feel it was something they needed to discuss.

The Time to Change campaign – run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health – includes work in 60 schools in England alongside the charity YoungMinds.

Staff will receive training and free resources to deliver sessions in secondary schools. As part of the campaign, young people who have had mental health problems will also deliver education sessions in schools to share their experience of living with a mental illness and the impact that the stigma has had on their lives.

Two new adverts have been created as part of the campaign to reach 14-18-year-olds and their parents. The first film calls on young people to think twice about judging a friend or classmate who has a mental health problem, while the second film encourages parents to be ready to have a conversation about mental health with their child.

Nadine Peacock, whose 19-year-old daughter Emma experienced mental health problems in her early teens, believes the topic should be discussed both in school and by parents. She said: “My biggest piece of advice, make mental health part of everyday conversation with your child. Even if your child isn’t experiencing any issues, if something does crop up further down the line at least then they feel like they can have an open conversation with you about it.

“There also needs to be more education around the topic at school; the more openly this is discussed in the classroom, the less of a taboo mental health will be.”

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “Our research has shown that talking about mental health is still seen as too awkward for many parents and young people and we need to change that in the home, at school, on social media and in wider social circles. They feel that mental health is not relevant to their lives so don’t see the value in talking about it.

“This has to be the generation for change. Mental health problems are a common experience for three children in every classroom. Recent research has also shown that more than two-thirds of headteachers were worried about their pupils’ mental health.”

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