Our HeaducationUK crusade

About HeaductionUK

HeaducationUK is the national crusade for compulsory mental health education in the UK.

The Shaw Mind Foundation, along with key allies from the charity sector, mental health activists and clinical psychologists, has launched HeaducationUK. We won’t stop until mental health education (MHE) is made compulsory in every primary and secondary school in the UK.

Huge public and professional support for compulsory mental health education in schools

Our petition, which calls on the government to make mental health education compulsory in schools, reached over 100,000 signatures by the 3rd May deadline, showing overwhelming public and professional support. What made this collective achievement even more amazing was that we managed it in just three short months, due to the calling of the snap general election.

This is the first time in British history that a mental health charity has reached over 100,000 signatures on the Petition Parliament website.

Following on from this, on the 11th October, we received the fantastic news that the new petitions committee have decided to go ahead and debate our petition in parliament on the 6th November. This is a phenomenal achievement in itself, made possible by each and every one of our supporters, and it is a clear indication of the public’s appetite for this kind of social change.

As well as garnering an overwhelming number of signatures on our petition and successfully securing a debate in parliament, our campaign also commissioned two polls earlier this year and found:

• 80% of British parents believe protecting their children’s mental health is a top concern and 79% of British parents believe that children should be taught more about mental health in schools. (YouGov)
• 92% of teenagers aged 14 to 18 think mental health should be discussed in lessons at school, and 65% said they wouldn’t be able to identify if they were experiencing mental health problem because they don’t know enough about it. (Censuswide)
• Over 30 of the UK’s leading clinical psychologists and psychiatrists specialising in children’s mental health also wrote an open letter calling on the government to make mental health education compulsory (Offer mental health classes, schools told [The Times]).

How we will make a change?

HeaducationUK’s objective of getting compulsory MHE in UK schools, will:

• Help prevent the development of mental ill health in children and teenagers
• Decrease the vast numbers of children and young people suffering from mental illness
• Rid our society of the ‘sticking plaster’ approach that the UK government have long adopted when trying to deal with mental illness in children and young people
• Educate our children and future generations for a happier and healthier adulthood
• Take a huge physical and financial strain off the NHS, CAMHS, social services and teachers
• Create huge advantages for the UK economy and industry for decades to come
• Normalise mental health issues as an accepted human condition so that children will feel confident enough to open up to each other and those who care for them
• Enable a more proactive society in addressing mental health issues, giving children the ability and confidence to speak out during their childhood and indeed into adulthood, as they go into the workplace and have their own families
The Shaw Mind Foundation will now be commissioning an independent report to show the long-term impact that compulsory mental health education will have on the workplace, social media, NHS, UK economy, family mental health and wellbeing. Compulsory mental health education – and the key word is ‘compulsory’ – will be a game changer. Our report will also make recommendations on how it can be efficiently and cost effectively implemented into the curriculum.

Why mental health education needs to be compulsory

Currently mental health is only taught as an optional component of PHSE – but this is not good enough. It needs to be compulsory, and this is what we’re fighting for. Understanding mental health is an absolute life skill, and should be just as fundamental within the school curriculum as learning to read and write. There needs to be a compulsory collaboration and integration between mental health education and physical education, so that children and young people can learn to understand that maintaining good mental health is equally vital to their wellbeing.

Mental health education is the only way we can tackle stigma effectively and relieve the enormous pressure on teachers, a stretched school curriculum, mental health social workers, the NHS and CAHMS, which will be hugely advantageous for the UK economy in the decades to come. Providing the next generation with knowledge and understanding of mental illness will also aid us massively in normalising mental health conditions, eliminating stigma and encouraging open and honest conversations.

Our children’s mental health has reached a crisis point. Mental health problems are happening right now in our schools and affecting too many of our children.

• 850,000 UK children aged 5–16 have mental health problems, which equates to around 3 children in every classroom

• 1 in 5 children will experience a mental health difficulty before the age of 11

• The number of young people going to A&E with a psychiatric condition has risen by 106% since 2009.

How MHE is currently taught in the UK

The UK national curriculum puts a lot of emphasis on teaching our children about how our bodies work, physical illnesses, and how exercise and nutrition can keep us healthy. These are taught in mandatory subjects such as PE (physical education) and biology.

But what are we doing to teach them about mental health and the possibility of mental illness?

Currently, mental health education is taught inconsistently in the UK, and only in secondary schools – despite 1 in 5 children experiencing a mental health difficulty before the age of 11.

Mental health education is delivered via the non-compulsory subject PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic), or sometimes during school assembly or drama lessons. As PSHE is a non-compulsory subject, this means that not all schools teach it, and that in turn means that mental health education isn’t always taught.

The team behind HeaducationUK believes that the system is failing our children by not providing the adequate education on mental health at an earlier age, and not within a framework which is compulsory. This means that mental health education is all too often overlooked or dropped altogether. Simply put, we aren’t equipping our children with the knowledge and skills to understand something that affects three children (between the ages of 5 – 16) in every UK classroom.

How we want MHE to be taught

We firmly believe that we should start educating our children on mental health before they head off to secondary school. It should be compulsory within both primary and secondary schools and be taught at an age appropriate level, depending on which key stage the pupils are in.

Mental health education in the UK needs urgent reform, or else the alarming numbers of children and young people suffering from mental health issues will continue to increase.

What compulsory mental health education will do
Compulsory mental health education in all schools will enable pupils of any age to develop the skill set, knowledge, understanding, language and ability to seek help, if required, for themselves, their friends and family.

Children will be able to identify when help is required, what types of help are available, and how to access it.

Having a platform to enable pupils to talk openly about mental health issues will help towards eliminating stigma and facilitate discussion on specific issues affecting children and young people’s mental health. For example, bullying and social media pressures often lead to high numbers of self-harm and suicide.

“Having worked as a mental health advisor in a further education college for the last 8 years, I want to express my support of your campaign to make mental health education compulsory in primary and secondary education. Mental health. Physical health. Health. All forms of health should be explained and explored in age appropriate ways throughout school years. No one is exempt, but a proactive versus reactive approach can reduce the risks and severity of long term mental health issues. This is a vital step in improving wellbeing for children, young people, and all individuals.” Eleanor Port-Burke, Cambridgeshire Expressive Arts and Counselling Centre

Generation after generation has been let down by the lack of education and understanding around mental health and positive mental health maintenance. Good mental health education lasts a lifetime.

Join over 100,000 people and over 30 of the UK's leading child psychologists and psychiatrists who are already supporting our HeaducationUK campaign.

You can still get involved!

Though our government petition ended on 3rd May 2017 and with the debate in November, you can still have your voice heard. You will receive regular updates about our campaign and ways in which you can get involved. Just complete the form below.

I am (please tick all relevant boxes);
A parent
A social worker
A teacher
A mental health professional
A specialist in emotional well-being
A young person (aged between 12 - 18)
The Shaw Mind Foundation would love to keep you up to date on our HeaducationUK campaign and our other campaigns. Please tick this box to opt in.
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We want the government to take this debate seriously. You can help us by showing your support and contacting your local MP by using the letter template provided [click here] and sending it to your Local MP [click here to see a list]. Please note, the letter template can be updated using Adobe Acrobat.

What now?

The petition has now closed and we have a date for it to be debated in parliament, but despite the popular support and importance of this issue, there is a chance that the government will not take the debate seriously enough to make mental health education compulsory.

Our campaign has jumped through every hoop presented so far by the government, and still succeeds in showing wide support.

If the government fails to make mental health education a compulsory element on the curriculum it will:

• Be taken as an indication by the mental health community that they do not really care about improving how mental health is taught, and laying the foundations of sound mental wellbeing for our children and future generations.

• Show a lack of understanding of how deeply mental health conditions affect society as a whole, and the fundamental changes we can make to society by teaching mental health properly from a young age. Mental health conditions put undue strain on the NHS and UK economy as a whole. They also lead to children living in extreme hardship and poverty in situations where a parent suffers from a debilitating mental health condition.

• Act as an indication to the education community that teachers and schools do not deserve the support and investment necessary to tackle mental health properly. This can only be achieved if mental health education is compulsory and the government commits to funding it properly. Responsibility should not lie solely with teachers and schools. They should be supported.

Considering the upcoming debate, this is a great opportunity for the government and all parties to show their support for our children’s wellbeing, and to include compulsory mental health education in their manifestos.

We see this as an opportunity for the UK to lead the world in recognising the importance of mental health, as we already recognise physical health.

We need your support now as much as possible. We want everyone to attend the debate on 6th November, to ensure that MHE has the best chance of being implemented into the national curriculum as a compulsory subject.

Ways you can help

You can help to support this campaign further by writing to your local MP and asking them to show their support. You can also attend the debate on the 6th November at 4:30pm! We have provided a letter template that you can use. Just simply click this link, fill out your address, the date and your name at the bottom then either print or email to your local MP!

Donate to HeaducationUK
HeaducationUK is a national initiative led and wholly funded by global mental health charity, The Shaw Mind Foundation.
We receive no government support and we need your help.

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Our work in schools and the importance of delivering compulsory mental health education

Hope Virgo from The Shaw Mind Foundation visits The Henrietta Barnett school in London to give a talk about the HeaducationUK campaign. We also ask an existing emotional wellbeing specialist (Jackie Wilson from Kids Skills 4 life) about her role within schools and her thoughts on compulsory mental health education.

About us and our key allies

HeaducationUK is a national initiative led and wholly funded by global mental health charity, The Shaw Mind Foundation.


Set up by Adam Shaw, a philanthropist, author and ex-sufferer of OCD, anxiety and depression, and clinical psychologist Dr Lauren Callaghan…READ MORE

Find out more about our key allies below:

  • HealthUnlocked

    HealthUnlocked is a social network for health, offering a peer-to-peer support network of patients, caregivers and health advocates...

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  • Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn

    We also have established mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn as our allies for the crusade....

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We also work alongside several clinical psychologists and psychiatrists:

  • Dr Lauren Callaghan

    Lauren has over 12 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist treating both adults and adolescents...

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  • Dr Az Hakeem

    Dr Az Hakeem offers assessments and treatment as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist or provides a combined approach...

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  • Dr Sadegh Nashat

    Dr Nashat is a chartered Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Family

    View More

Latest news

Our response to Jeremy Hunt’s new “Zero Suicide” mission

1 Feb 2018

Today Jeremy Hunt will announce plans to ensure that a faster response is available to people who are contemplating suicide. This will form part of a mission to achieve “zero suicides” in hospitals. Click here to read more

Read more

150 children a day being denied mental health treatment

14 Nov 2017

The NSPCC says "too many children" are struggling to access support despite Theresa May's pledge that mental health is a priority. Click here to read more.

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Adam Shaw talks about his obsessive compulsive disorder and how he is campaigning to make mental health education compulsory from primary school.

9 Nov 2017

Selling your company for a multimillion-pound figure is normally a passport to serenity but for Adam Shaw it was the starting gun for an all-action crusade for better mental health. Click here to read more.

Read more

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