Ulster Unionist Party Assembly member Roy Beggs MLA has presented a petition which aims to improve mental health and wellbeing, by making it compulsory within the Northern Ireland school curriculum, to the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly
Speaking in the Assembly, Roy Beggs MLA said “I commend the work of Sara Patterson, a year 14 pupil at Carrickfergus Grammar School, who is seeking to make Mental Health and Well Being a compulsory and more significant part of the NI School Curriculum. With the support of her friends, Sara has collected signatures by going door to door in her local community. She has also organised an online petition using Change.org.
Some 605 signatures have been collected. I wish to put on record my admiration for Sara’s vision and effort to increase the awareness of mental health issues and to make students at our schools more knowledgeable of how to improve their mental health and well-being. Whilst there is the topic of Emotional Well-being within the curriculum, it is not compulsory and I understand that many schools choose not to teach it.”
The pressures on young people today are different to previous generations. There is increased pressure on achieving academic results and fewer young people are active in terms of sport and less time is being spent outside in the natural environment. The internet, computer gaming and social media can also create problems in terms of isolation and internet bullying can lead to the loss of self-esteem and mental ill-health. The smart phone has now brought the intensity of social media pressures to a new level.
The Mental Health Foundation in a recent survey found that helping others can reduce stress, improve emotional wellbeing, bring a sense of belonging and reduce isolation and get rid of negative feelings. This is why Sara’s petition is so important and commendable – we need to do all that we can to promote mental health and wellbeing within our young people, and the Northern Ireland curriculum is a vital component of young people’s educational lives.”