A Newark charity is leading the fight for compulsory mental health education in all schools.
The issue will be considered for debate in Parliament after the Shaw Mind Foundation ran a successful campaign to attract more than 100,000 signatories to a petition hosted on a Government website.
The charity, based at Millgate, is the brainchild of Mr Adam Shaw, a former businessman who set up the organisation in 2014.
It runs several projects to help those who suffer from mental health issues and lobbies key groups to introduce more preventative measures.
One campaign is to ensure mental health education in schools is compulsory, as part of pupils’ personal, social and health education (PSHE).
'Generation after generation has been let down'
Mr Shaw, 39, said that would end a culture of fine words but little action from politicians, de-stigmatise the issue of mental health for children, and try to ensure better health for each child as they progressed through life.
“Generation after generation has been let down,” he said.
“The issue of mental health has been pushed under the carpet because it is taboo.
“We have to go to children and say to them that it’s OK if they have a mental health condition.
“Our focus at the foundation is to make the Government aware and to make sure it takes the issue seriously.
“There are some little talked-about areas, too. You would not believe the problems children have when a parent, for instance, has a mental health issue.
“They could be dressing their parent and also looking after their siblings. They are left to fend for themselves.
“All of this goes down to education — that people can suffer from mental health problems, and it should be discussed.”
'Sticking-plaster technique when it comes to mental health'
Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will scrap the Mental Health Act. A new bill may include rules that every primary and secondary school must have staff trained in mental health first aid.
Mr Shaw, who has worked closely with Liberal Democrat MP Mr Norman Lamb, said he would examine carefully General Election party manifestos for a commitment to making mental health education compulsory.
He said addressing mental health was the single biggest problem facing the country.
“People can talk about obesity or cancer being an epidemic, but it’s amazing the Government is still going for the sticking-plaster technique when it comes to mental health,” said Mr Shaw.
“Theresa May and the Government said they have a passion for this now. The reason we are at this point is because of governments saying things and not taking action.
“I’m cynical because the topic is very current and I wonder if politicians are simply talking about it for that reason.
“These children are going to be the next fighter pilots and future CEOs, but if you speak to someone in a corporation they don’t know how to deal with an employee who has a mental health problem.
“We have got to give clarity to schools, and teachers need resources and investment.”
'I spent the majority of my life fighting demons'
Mr Shaw, a married father-of-six living in Lincolnshire, said he suffered from mental health problems for most of his life.
“I had severe OCD, which was debilitating,” he said.
“I thought I was going to kill vulnerable people, but it’s important to note no one with that form of OCD actually does it. I spent the majority of my life fighting those demons.
“Once I sold my business I could have given money to charity or set up the foundation and, although I am not spiritual or religious, I felt I had a purpose.
“Mental health charities do wonderful things but I wanted us to be free of political influence.”
The Government has posted a response to the petition, part of which reads: “We want mental health to be an everyday concern in all institutions. Schools should decide how to teach pupils about mental health developing their own curriculum to reflect the needs of their pupils.
“We want schools to be able to decide themselves how to teach their pupils about mental health — developing their own local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, drawing on resources and evidence provided by expert organisations.
“We will be developing a green paper on children and young people’s mental health to be published later in the year with new proposals for both improving services and increasing focus on preventative activity.”
More information about the foundation is at the Shaw Mind Foundation website or by calling 01636 600825.