How Schools Can Support Students With Mental Health Needs
Students spend more time with their teachers than nearly any other adult, and in many cases, teachers have more influence and spend more time with teens than their parents do. When students spend so much of their time at school, it makes sense that educators need to be on the lookout for signs of mental health issues. Educators and administrators must be informed on mental health issues and prepared to intervene when necessary.
Mental health issues are common and can develop early
Mental health problems, mood disorders, and emotional issues are surprisingly common and may develop earlier than you think. Nearly half of students struggle with a mental health issue at some point that impedes learning or social interaction in a classroom setting. Teens aren’t the only ones at risk of developing mental health issues; these problems can manifest in childhood as well. High school and college-level educators and administrators are not the only ones who need to be prepared to support students and families with these kinds of issues; elementary and middle schools need to have a system in place, too.
There are warning signs
Although it would be unfair to expect educators to diagnose mental illness like psychologists or psychiatrists, there are many early warning signs of mental illness teachers may notice in their students. Drastic changes in behavior or appearance, sudden weight loss or gain, poor hygiene, missing class, use of drugs or alcohol, social isolation, sleeping in class, and more are all signs that something may be wrong.
Treatment is available, and schools can help
With a treatment plan, often including counseling, a plan for an adjusted daily routine, and sometimes medication, students suffering from mental illness can expect to feel better and even make a full recovery. Schools can offer support from counselors, have open conversations about mental health, form student support groups, open up and guide conversations with families, and more.
Schools can accommodate mental issues
Schools can also accommodate and support students suffering from mental illness in the classroom in many ways. Allowing for breaks, creating flexible deadlines, planning group discussions, and permitting students to redo work are just a few of the ways teachers can help take the pressure off of students struggling with mental health, so their education isn’t disrupted.
With mental health issues on the rise, school administrators and educators have to be aware of the warning signs of mental illness and have an established plan in place to support students and families. Although they are not certified psychologists, educators have to recognize that as the adults who spend the most time with their students, they have a responsibility to their students’ mental well-being. Recognizing this responsibility, having a plan in place, being aware of the warning signs, keeping the conversation open, and supporting students as they navigate their mental health are all ways schools and educators can support students with mental health needs.