THE SDLP’s Mark H Durkan has welcomed assurances from the Department of Education that Mental Health and Well-being teaching within schools will be prioritised.
However, he argued the current provision does not go far enough.
At present, the legal minimum content to be taught by schools in the North of Ireland, is set out in The Education (Curriculum Minimum Content) Order (NI) 2007 as high level areas of learning.
The department stated that the mandatory Learning for Life and Work Curriculum at post-primary includes mental health and well-being teachings.
Said the Foyle MLA: “Whilst I welcome ongoing multi-agency approach to mental health and well-being currently undertaken by the Department, Public Health Agency and EA, I fear it is not as comprehensive as it needs to be.
“The recent establishment of an Executive task-force on Mental Health is a marker of change here and a step of many essential steps in tackling this crisis enveloping our communities.
“The next step now must be the mandatory provision of mental health and well-being teaching on the school curriculum- not just within a secondary setting but extended to a primary level.
“It is vitally important our children are equipped with the essential skills to understand and recognise their emotions, to build resilience required to deal with the hardships life will inevitably bring.
“The earlier we can intervene to provide those skills, the more effective they will be.
“We must ensure that schools are supported to explicitly promote mental health and well-being at all levels of education.
“Promoting mental health remains a momentous undertaking but the department in conjunction with the Department of Health, need to use everything in its arsenal to deliver better mental healthcare pathways.
“An environment must be created where we can develop initiatives within our schools and provide our health service with adequate funding to meet demand and deliver effective, contemporaneous care.
“We need to embolden our children from an early age with the importance of speaking openly about mental health- that fight begins in our schools.”