Why mental health needs to be mandatory on the school curriculum

Make mental health education/ social emotional learning mandatory in the school curriculum, says CHRISTOPHER SHUM, MD of Motus Learning, behind The Act Campaign
Why mental health needs to be mandatory on the school curriculum

Change the curriculum and the education around mental health, says Christopher Shum of The Act Campaign. Picture: stock

MOTUS Learning is a group of young, progressive psychology graduates who believe that every child has a right to be educated on how to take care of their mental health.

We educate children, parents, teachers and corporates about how to cultivate a pro- social mental health environment for children. Everything we teach is research driven and we have collaborated with University College Cork and University of Limerick to ensure that we are delivering the most effective workshops. To date, we have educated over 7000 students in over 120 schools in Ireland.

The ACT Campaign asks the Irish government to consider making five changes to the current educational curriculum in Ireland:

1) Make mental health education/social emotional learning mandatory in the curriculum.

2) Ensure that this education is maintained to a high standard through inspections.

3) Have a mental health lead in each school.

4) More communication between schools and the HSE mental health services.

5) Prioritise the mental health of teachers.

According to UNICEF, Ireland ranks 4th in the EU for adolescent suicide rates and number 1 in the EU for female adolescent suicide rates.

On top of this, the number of young girls aged 10 – 14 presenting with self-harm has risen by 189% in the decade preceding Covid. It is very clear that we have a problem.

The SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education) curriculum has not been updated since 1999 despite the world around it completely transforming. If you read the SPHE curriculum, it states several fabricated outcomes such as teaching children self-confidence, how to deal with difficult feelings and how to cope with new situations.

However, there is no evidence that this curriculum is working. SPHE is important and the curriculum is actually very well written. It is essentially teaching children how to successfully operate as independent individuals; how to live.

However, it is squeezed into 30 minutes a week. 

Imagine trying to promote academic development by putting maths, English, history, geography, business and science all together into one subject and teaching it for a half an hour a week. Impossible, but this is our reality.

The introduction of Covid-19 is likely to change the education system forever. As schools were forced to adapt to technological transformations, child mental health continued to deteriorate. It was a problem before, and research from Oxford University is showing that it’s an even bigger problem now. Intervention is important but prevention is more effective, both in terms of health and financial outcomes.

Global warming is clearly happening and there are people flying less, becoming vegan and recycling more (which is fantastic). On the other hand, there are children dying by suicide and the only thing we’re doing is telling people to talk? Just think about that.

This is important because it can save lives. 

The consequences of not seeing this change is children continuing to have a low quality of life or worse again, dying by suicide and leaving behind devastated families. Don’t wait until there is a problem.

Change the curriculum and the education around mental health and we’ll see the stigma reduced, we’ll promote the potential of every child and we’ll prevent problems before they happen.


If you would like to see these changes implemented, we urge you to sign our petition at: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/the-act-campaign-for-mental-health-education


If you would like to find out more about Motus Learning and what we do, please visit our website (www.motuslearning.com) or follow us on social media.

It’s time to stop saying that we need to do something about suicide and mental illness in this country.

It’s time to ACT, because Action Changes Things.


Support and helplines:

Samaritans 116 123

Aware Helpline: 1890 303 302

GROW 1890 474 474

Pieta House 1800 247 247

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