Press release

30 Jun 2021 London, GB

EY research supports teaching mental health science education in secondary schools

Young people and society benefit when young people are better informed about the science of mental health

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Rupa Sudra Bharadva

Manager, Media Relations, Ernst & Young LLP

Communications professional for EY UK. Mum of two, works part-time. Passionate about supporting women in business.

Related topics Health Workforce Purpose
  • Young people and society benefit when young people are better informed about the science of mental health
  • 88% of secondary school teachers agree that teaching mental health science education would improve secondary school students’ wellbeing throughout their lives

London, Wednesday 30 June 2021: Teaching mental health as part of the national science curriculum would positively impact future generations, according to new research by EY.

The findings highlight the need for a better understanding and awareness of mental health in the UK, especially among younger generations who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health is currently taught as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education but EY’s research shows an opportunity exists to include mental health education in the science curriculum. 

Conducted by EY Seren - a design consultancy - the research was based on a series of focus groups with mental health practitioners and teachers, interviews with parents and young people and a survey of over 1,125 secondary school teachers, parents, mental health practitioners and people under the age of 18. The findings revealed that 84% of all respondents felt that teaching secondary school students about the science of mental health would improve how young people realise their abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and make contributions to their community.

The report identified three key benefits for young people and society that could be realised by being better informed about the science of mental health.

Mental health science education could:

  • Equip and empower young people with important knowledge to live more fulfilling lives;
  • Lead to improved wellbeing and productivity for young people over the course of their lives; and
  • Lead to positive change in wider society.

79% of respondents agreed that teaching mental health science education would make it easier for people to seek help with their mental health, and 72% agreed that it would improve young people’s productivity to a large or very large extent.

Over 88% of the 250 secondary school teachers surveyed agreed that science-based mental health education would improve secondary school students’ wellbeing throughout their lives. 83% of teachers felt the scientific basis of mental health education would support children in achieving their academic potential.  

In addition, 80% of secondary school teachers said that teaching mental health as part of the science curriculum in secondary schools would also help reduce the stigma of mental health in society. The ability to communicate and take a proactive, more open attitude could enable young people to address the topic more widely in society — contributing to their communities by addressing misconceptions about mental health with confidence and supporting those that are struggling.

According to the research, teaching mental health science education to secondary school students would also equip and empower young people with important knowledge that would help them to live more fulfilling lives, improve wellbeing and productivity, and ultimately contribute to positive change across wider society.

The research calls for mental health education to be relatable, and grounded in scientific evidence, and says that it should be focused on the following five areas, based on conversations with mental health practitioners and secondary school teachers. They are: biology: the brain, neurotransmitters and hormones; psychology: experiences, behaviours and mental disorders; social: environment, social influence and determinants of mental health; mental health debates: different perspectives and their scientific basis; and, mental health in everyday life: healthy behaviours and their scientific basis.

Hywel Ball, EY’s UK Chair, comments: “As one of the UK’s largest student recruiters and as an employer of over 17,000 people, health and wellbeing are absolute priorities for us. The experience of the pandemic has shown that they’ve also never been more important issues, for business and society at large.

“The research shows that interventions at a young age, could make a big difference. Educating secondary school students on mental health would support a younger generation to prioritise their health and wellbeing, and equip them with the skills and confidence to ask for help when needed. Having conversations on the science of mental health in the classroom could also break down stigmas and normalise issues that can affect each of us, at any time. This would be a positive change that all of society would benefit from.”

Jo Aidroos, Associate Partner, EY People Advisory Services, adds: “The mental health crisis is at a boiling point and our understanding has taken on new urgency in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that mental health has a profound impact on young people and there is a significant gap in education that needs to be filled. This research is a great step forward in showing how adding mental health science education into the national curriculum could contribute to a positive view of mental wellness for future generations.”

This research was inspired by conversations between EY and Aditya Sahu, an executive at Sky.  Aditya is a passionate advocate of mental health empowerment and recently founded Teach Mental Health Science, which is working to advocate for the inclusion of mental health science education in the UK national curriculum.  In the coming months, Teach Mental Health Science will be collaborating with stakeholders in the mental health, education and scientific sectors, to build a coalition of supporters to this initiative.

Aditya Sahu, Founder of Teach Mental Health Science, adds: “As a country we’re missing a trick.  We teach our children the science of physical health – but not the science of mental health.  Today’s excellent research report from EY provides strong evidence that if we closed this gap in the national science curriculum, we are likely to see significant benefits for young people and wider society.  Teach Mental Health Science aims to build a coalition of supporters to demonstrate to the UK Government that this is a low-risk, high-impact initiative with the potential to transform the way we think about mental health, and prepare our young people for fulfilling, healthy lives.”

View the EY Mental Health Science Education report.