Introduce Mental Health Awareness Schemes in Schools and Workplaces

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Research suggests that across the UK around 1 in 4 people will experience a form of mental health disorder each year, yet for something so common there is still a severe stigma around it. People need to be aware of the prevalence of mental illnesses and developmental or learning disorders, and the effects they can have, as well as understand how to support those going through them. In my opinion a meaningful way of accomplishing this could be to increase awareness through education, both in schools and the workplace.

From personal observations it has become apparent that there is a lack of understanding of the scope of this epidemic, an idea that suicide and mental illness happens elsewhere and not right in front of us. Throughout my experiences in employment I’ve encountered many misconceptions about mental illness and learning or developmental disorders, as well as a lack of empathy towards them. For the people who are struggling these misconceptions can create an oppressive environment and can, in some cases, worsen their symptoms and leave them feeling as though they are an ‘other’.

Many people have cited how their depression or anxiety seemed to originally manifest during their school years, often as a result of bullying or stress, and how a lack of understanding of developmental or learning disorders such as autism prevented others from getting the diagnosis and support that could have changed the trajectory of their lives. By introducing lessons or schemes to raise students’ awareness of this, and perhaps by increasing teachers' knowledge of the subject through mandatory courses, students could feel more supported and be more willing and able to seek out help. 

Within the workplace co-workers who were afflicted by mental illnesses or learning or developmental disorders have been ostricised by the other members of staff; there seems to be a significant lack of empathy and although there may be no ill-intentions this can have a significant effect on the individuals in question. This behaviour again stems from a level of misunderstanding, from misreading the symptoms to simply denouncing someone as ‘weird’ or ‘different’ and not knowing to look any deeper. If employers were encouraged to provide even a limited education on even the more common conditions during a job induction or training then the workplace could become a far more positive and supportive place, and it could really help people.

People are struggling and hurting within our community every day. By increasing the awareness of these issues both in schools and within the workplace we have the chance to make a real difference to someone's life.