In recent years, mental health and behavior in schools have risen to the forefront. Researchers have shown that a child’s mental health directly impacts their academic performance and career success. Youth aged 12 to 17 who visited the emergency department because of psychological illness jumped by 31% following the pandemic.
Studies indicate that the number of children and teenagers experiencing mental health issues increases alarmingly. As a result, there is increasing pressure for educational institutions to provide adequate resources to help students overcome obstacles and lead healthy, normal lives. A large portion of the pandemic relief money goes to schools, so the funds should be used for mental health programs.
The following are ways that schools and teachers can integrate mental health education into curriculums and daily life.
- Mental Health Professionals Are Worth Investing In
Even though most schools have a school counselor on staff, these professionals do not always address mental health issues. These professionals usually help students succeed academically and plan their future careers. If a student is struggling with their mental health, school psychologists with specific mental health training can help. The individual education plan (IEP) for disabled students could provide the necessary support or counseling for individuals and groups.
In addition, when hiring mental health counseling staff, schools need to make sure they have the right skills and education. Even if it’s a master’s in mental health done online, the right degree can give them the right skills. If they are bachelors, if they have skills and experience, encourage them to enroll in an online course. A masters in mental health counseling online will allow them to continue jobs and studies side by side.
- Know The Mental Health Needs Of The School
Teachers and school leaders should have a top-down understanding of whether students are experiencing mental health difficulties. The first step toward ensuring adequate support for students with mental health issues is to look specifically at their backgrounds and circumstances. Schools and teachers can gain a thorough understanding of their students’ circumstances and backgrounds.
As a result, many mental health issues go undetected in schools due to misdiagnoses or a student’s reluctance to speak up. Schools may not be aware of a mental health problem or crisis until much later in the education process.
- Assess Your Mental Health Needs And Consider Training
Being an expert on mental health is certainly not a requirement for teaching, but the more teachers understand mental health in youth, the better.
When you know and understand the basics of mental health, you will be better equipped to talk with students about their feelings. Moreover, you’ll better understand the right terminology and the signs to look out for.
Teachers may be able to request mental health training through their school or take a short online course. Online, there are many resources and information you can study without obtaining a formal qualification.
In order to intervene before things become too serious, it is more important than ever for teachers and school leaders to learn how to recognize signs of trouble.
- Teach Parents And Students About Significance And Symptoms
All members of the school community need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness to assist those who are struggling.
Students may be reminded to check in with mental health on posters around the school, or they may be taught a lesson on mental health.
It may be beneficial to arrange a mental health evening so that parents can attend, ask questions, and learn how mental health is managed within the school.
It is less likely that anyone will have to suffer in silence if everyone knows what to look out for.
- Establish An Open-Door Policy And A Place For Students To Speak
Students feel comfortable and safe discussing their problems with any staff member when they have an open-door policy. Teachers do not need special training in mental health, but being open and willing to listen and inform students about this will go a long way.
There should also be designated ‘safe spaces’ on every campus where students can talk. A trained professional is ideal, but volunteer student counselors may also be available to assist.
Keeping a student in the school’s mental health clinic or referring them to the school’s help desk is another aspect of how teachers can escalate a situation. Most of the time, this appears to be common sense, but it can also be learned through mental health training, as described previously.
- Start An Environment Of Safety And Positiveness At School
Creating a safe, positive learning environment is part of enforcing an open door policy. In addition to feeling supported with mental health issues, students’ overall learning and wellbeing are also affected.
Many schools already have procedures in place to accomplish this, but consider it from the perspective of mental health. Can anything be done to ensure a safe learning environment? Could it be made more comfortable?
Too often, this begins with how students communicate and treat one another and the disciplinary measures in place when they try to break the code of conduct.
Whenever students make positive choices, such as helping a classmate or showing compassion, you should recognize them for their efforts. Teachers can create a positive, supportive atmosphere by rewarding kindness and understanding.
- Facilitate Good Fitness.
Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. Explain the importance of overall health to students. Physical education is likely already a part of the curriculum in most schools. Specific lessons or workshops on healthy eating, physical activity, and managing stress will help students build positive relationships.
Don’t forget to always mention the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet to your students.
- Take Time To Be Social
A student’s social time is crucial to their functioning; it allows them to look up from schoolwork and exams and develop friendships.
Consider scheduling 30 minutes or so each week for students to socialize and focus on something else besides academics. You can do this in addition to regular breaks. Encourage your students to talk to their classmates about regular topics, current events, or even complete a challenging task together.
- Running Lunch Time Activities Clubs
Lunchtime (and after-school) clubs are extremely important because they can provide a sense of belonging and community to students who may otherwise struggle in other settings.
It may be an art club, a baking club, a drama club, a book club, a film club, a club for sports, dance, or even a discussion club. The most important thing is that students feel included and can do something they enjoy with people who share their interests.
- Include Mental Health In The Curriculum
It’s still considered taboo to talk about mental health, especially at school, because many people feel embarrassed. For this reason, it’s essential that a school prioritizes mental health and integrates it into the curriculum whenever possible.
During school assemblies, or even in a lesson or workshop, you can introduce the topic of mental health. You can also discuss it in PHSCE lessons, health & social care lessons, and when studying literacy characters in English classes. Let students know they’re not alone by celebrating awareness days like World Mental Health Day.
Additionally, you could invite mental health charities into the classroom to talk about their work. Be sure both students and parents attend.
- Set Up A Wellness Week
You can set up a week to promote mental health and well-being. It will be beneficial to both students and staff, and if possible, you can include parents in some events as well.
You could incorporate the following ideas into your wellness week:
- Create activities that will encourage students to work together and talk to people they may not normally talk to.
- Organize a sports or activities day with different exercises or art classes. Bring in tutors from various places to give taster sessions – anything that relaxes the mind and boosts endorphins, such as Tai Chi, Yoga, kickboxing, martial arts, or even flower arranging and pottery.
- Charity events like bake sales and fancy dress days can raise money for mental health charities.
- Organize mindfulness sessions focusing on meditation and stress-busting techniques.
Educating students about mental health is crucial for school mental health support. Students should learn about mental health so they can recognize the signs, seek help and possibly help others.
Additionally, integrating mental health education into the curriculum will create an atmosphere of openness and acceptance, removing any stigma and social misconceptions. As a result, those students experiencing problems would greatly benefit and possibly even have their symptoms reduced.
Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.