The Daily Telegraph

Children introduced to Churchill’s black dog

Schools to highlight former prime minister’s battle with depression in mental health drive

- By Rozina Sabur

SCHOOL children will learn about the mental health struggles of Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales as part of a drive to help them deal with their own issues.

Churchill is often referred to as the “British bulldog” for his strength of character, but less is known about the wartime prime minister’s “black dog” – his struggles with depression.

And almost 20 years after her death, Diana has been highlighte­d as an example of openly tackling mental health struggles.

The princess spoke candidly about her depression, her struggles with the eating disorder bulimia and self-harming in a 1995 interview with the BBC’s Panorama programme.

Rosa Monckton, Diana’s friend, said she welcomed the scheme. “There is no doubt that mental health is a huge issue with the youth of today, and it was in the public domain that Diana had these problems,” she told the Mail on Sunday.

“To have overcome them in the way she did while being in the public eye was fairly extraordin­ary.”

David Beckham and the late Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher are also listed as examples that may be discussed on the scheme. The former England captain has spoken publicly about his obsessive compulsive disorder which leaves him addicted to arranging things in straight lines or pairs. “I’ll go into a hotel room and before I can relax, I have to move all the leaflets and all the books and put them in a drawer. Everything has to be perfect,” he revealed in a 2006 interview with ITV.

The Department for Education are hoping to trial the scheme in around 135 secondary schools in a UK first, where teachers will be trained to deliver the Mental Health And High School Curriculum Guide, which was developed in Canada.

The guide’s first module is on famous people who have lived with a mental health illness, in which students research one person from a list of prominent figures.

Those on the list include Churchill, who suffered from periods of depression which he referred to as “black dogs”; the novelist Virginia Woolf, who was thought to be bipolar, and the Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain, who was also bipolar and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child.

The module also lists Abraham Lincoln, who battled clinical depression; Charles Darwin, who suffered from agoraphobi­a (fear of open spaces); the singers Janet Jackson and Britney Spears; and the actor Robin Williams who spoke of depression and dementia.

The move follows a pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May to “transform” attitudes to mental health, and calls by Sir Anthony Seldon, the former headmaster of Wellington College, for schools to boost children’s wellbeing.

The Royal Family has also championed mental health causes, with princes William and Harry both speaking publicly of the importance to remove the stigma from mental health sufferers.

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