Mental health is an essential part of your complete health. It impacts all aspects of your life and often, if not always, also affects those around you. Despite its significance in our lives, it is often underestimated. This is especially true when it comes to students at school.
Children are expected to be jubilant. Even when they exhibit signs of struggling with their mental health, people around them often dismiss it. This leads to an unhealthy and painful lifestyle for the child, leading to problems like anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and even Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Good mental health can improve students’ learning and developmental experience in school. Hence, as a teacher or school staff member, you must take measures to ensure the psychological well-being of students at your school. Here are some ways in which educators can improve the mental health of students in schools:
1- Hire A school psychologist
If you’re in a leadership position, hire a psychologist with the right academic qualifications and experience to ensure they can deal with mentally disturbed students in school settings. Usually, school psychologists are expected to have either a master’s or doctoral degree from a NASP-accredited institution.
Alternatively, if you’re an educator, you can also upskill and diversify your career options. Become a school-level mental health professional to help support students struggling with sadness, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, trauma, and related problems. You can enroll in online school psychology programs to manage upskilling in a more flexible manner. Be sure to acquire the necessary licenses before starting as a school counselor or psychologist.
Having a mental health professional on campus will allow students to discuss their problems freely. A school counselor will also help to create awareness about mental health problems among youngsters and develop plans to create a stress-free environment on campus.
2- Embrace mental health needs within school settings
Teachers, as well as the school administration, must play an active role in understanding the mental health conditions of the students. Most teachers and schools are very concerned about the overall well-being of their students. Hence, they adopt ways to provide proper support for their students.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 in 3 high schoolers experienced feeling sad and hopeless in 2019. In comparison, 1 in 6 youngsters reported making a suicidal plan in 2019.
Students are often hesitant to talk about their mental health because they fear the label that might be attached to them after admission. Hence, the student fraternity and the school staff must be adequately educated regarding the normalcy of mental health problems.
A student will only be able to talk about their mental condition openly when they see there is a safe space to talk about it, and acceptance from those around them is guaranteed. Teachers and the school administration need to be adept at identifying signs of mental stress to intervene before it’s too late.
3- Have an open-door policy and train teachers
An open-door policy refers to creating a safe space for students to discuss their mental health with any school staff member. Although it would help, teachers don’t need to be specially trained to listen to what the student is going through. Providing them with special mental health training could be very helpful for the students and the school psychologist.
Try to label a room or a section in the library as a ‘safe space’ where students can easily talk about their mental problems. Have at least one trained professional in this area at all times. Moreover, teachers must know how to manage a problem and when to take it to the school psychologist or a local mental health practitioner.
4- Create a positive and safe school environment
Creating a safe and positive school environment is crucial when enforcing a healthy open-door policy. Students should feel supported in their academic, co-curricular, and mental health pursuits. This would decrease the probability of mental health issues.
Ensure that the student body knows the consequences of bullying, social isolation, social disadvantage, and trolling. Most schools today have proper procedures to ensure a healthy, safe and inclusive environment for their students, but there’s never too much the school can do to create a better positive space.
When students go against the code of conduct, take disciplinary action against them immediately, and when they abide by the rules, be sure to appreciate them. Instill values like empathy, compassion, kindness, and understanding in the students.
5- Educate parents and guardians about signs and symptoms
Students spend most of their time with their families. They exhibit most signs and symptoms in spaces where they feel at ease, areas that feel like home. Parents are the first to come in close contact with them.
A parent who observes that their child has been persistently sad for more than two weeks and avoids all social interaction or hurts themself should request to stage an intervention immediately. These are the early signs of anxiety and depression. Other symptoms include irritability, aggression, loss of weight, difficulty sleeping, and changes in academic performance.
Parents need to be educated about these signs and symptoms through mental health seminars at the schools, meetings with the school psychologist, and even article referrals by the school staff through parent-teacher meetings. The more parents are aware of these signs, the more they’ll be able to aid the school in ensuring mental healthcare for the students.
Mental health is essential, and schools must take immediate action to ensure a positive dynamic within school settings. There are many ways to do this, including educating everyone involved with the student at some point in the day to hiring a school psychologist. So adopt these strategies to create a safe and positive space to allow students to grow into mentally stable adults.