The Case for Compulsory Mental Health Education in Scottish Schools

Despite formal support for Mental Health education, popular sentiment and statistics show that the Scottish school system currently fails to adequately achieve this. The Buchanan Institute evaluate the situation at-hand with critical insight to the reality of Mental Health across Europe and the neglect of Mental Health education in schools. Ultimately the case is made for mental health as a compulsory component of the Scottish curriculum.



Education, Health


Maddy Churchhouse

Alex Jackman

Dillon Zhou

Executive Summary

Mental health (MH) is an established priority issue in Scotland and a top public health challenge in Europe. The Scottish Government’s policy and action plan Towards A Mentally Flourishing Scotland (2009) states that ‘our immediate aim is to help everyone to understand how their own and other’s mental health can be improved.’

To achieve this, educating children in primary and secondary education about MH issues and how to deal with them is required. This is recognised by the Scottish Government’s Suicide Preventions Strategy 2013-16 which established a clear national aim of ‘building resilience and mental and emotional wellbeing in schools’. In order for schools to achieve this, they need to practice universal, high-quality and practicable MH education. The Scottish school system currently fails to achieve this. Our interview and survey data of recent school leavers provides strong evidence that primary and secondary schools fail to educate pupils about MH issues. It shows that MH education in Scottish schools tends to be minimal and often missing. Only 27% of

those surveyed received any formal MH education at all and none of the interviewees felt

that they received high-quality and applicable MH education. At present, the Curriculum of Excellence (CfE) does not lay out compulsory MH education for all children in Scotland, and neglects the issue of MH in its overall curriculum guidelines.

We propose making Mental Health Education a compulsory component of the Scottish curriculum.

Top-down education policy, that explicitly spells out what a reformed compulsory MH

curriculum would look like, is required to drastically increase the time and effort ded-

icated to MH issues in schools and make universal MH education a reality. Through this,

schools will be able to make MH education a greater priority. By introducing compulsory

MH education in Scottish schools which both educates children on the nature of issues

and how to deal with them, the general population is likely to be better prepared to deal

with this priority public health challenge.