Language, and the choice of words and tone, matter immensely to the success of the mental health curriculum. The voices involved in shaping that language are key to providing a balanced, empathetic and positive curriculum.

There is a need to create a common language in order to effectively deliver the government’s plans to introduce mental health lessons to classrooms next year. Mental Health Today asked who should shape the language and it is clear from the results that many feel there must be an understanding of lived experience blended with the expertise of health professionals.

Lived experience

61 percent voted for those with lived experience of mental health issues to take a major role in shaping the language. It’s clear that many feel the first-hand understanding of how language choices impact have a powerful effect on how we view mental health and on those living with mental health conditions.


We all have a level of mental health. It’s imperative that we teach young people about what mental illness actually is, rather than simply how to deal with any such illness. Exploring and explaining the forces at play when we feel anxious, depressed, upbeat, calm and more - and how difficult life can be when emotions are out of sync – will surely be the domain of psychologists, as illustrated by the 55 percent of votes for their involvement.


Language is constantly evolving and technological advances mean there is the biggest gap in cultural understanding between adults and children in many generations, possible since the cultural shifts of the 1960s. Teachers will perhaps know this better than any other professional else listed here.

If we are to have an open and honest discussion with younger generations about their mental wellbeing, we must understand the realities of their world and what is important to them. Most importantly, any mental health lesson will fail, whatever the language, if it is not delivered with patience and compassion, something teachers are in a position to do. 37 percent said teachers should lead in the shaping of the language used in mental health education.

Teachers are also best placed to adapt what can be at times the inaccessible language of medical professionals to best suit their students' age group and their areas of attention and interest.


25 percent or our respondents said that doctors should play a role in the language employed in classrooms. To help the students talk about their bodies, not only their emotions, doctors are best placed to advise how to approach this in the correct manner. They will also be best placed for focusing on the support available from local health authorities.

Many may see mental health support as being above doctors' expertise, that they will most likely be referred on by doctors to obtain support. Doctors can help to clarify the process, so the children are clear on where to go first for support should they need, and what happens in that process.

Next steps

The government will share its updated plans for mental health education later this month.

In its draft plans (released prior to the winter consultation) the Department for Education said primary school pupils should "be given the language to help them talk about their bodies, health and emotions". It neglected to specify who would shape this language, despite the language of mental health being contested among the mental health professions.

Catch up with Mental Health Today's Teach Me Well campaign, including all our poll results, blogs and campaign asks, to learn more.

NB - Voters were permitted to select more than one answer to this poll question.