Many experts believe that there is a problem with the quality of mental health education provided in schools. This can take the form of poor teacher training, lack of funding, and outdated methods. Teachers are not given support or training to help them deal with these complex issues – which often seem to be an afterthought. What’s more, teachers have limited opportunities for professional development around addressing mental health at school, despite it being such a prevalent issue today.
Career Shift Opportunities
Many teachers who want to provide more support for their students’ mental health and wellbeing are considering a career change. Courses are now available aimed at supporting people looking to shift careers into a more caring role as school counselors. The goal of these programs is to help existing teachers and professionals meet the growing need for mental health awareness and emotional support in schools.
When we look at the data on children living with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, it’s clear that action must be taken; there are a lot of students out there who need help. As far as we know, many teachers are simply not equipped with the necessary resources to help their students when they’re struggling emotionally. Although some advocates believe that mental health should be taught as a separate subject in itself, others believe that it should be integrated into the existing curriculum as any other topic would.
How is Mental Health Impacting School Pupils Worldwide?
Mental health is a global issue, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that more than 300 million people of all ages have a mental condition. Mental health disorders are not just an issue in adults but also in children and adolescents.
The number of children and adolescents living with mental health disorders is on the rise, as they are more prone to stress and anxiety than adults. The WHO estimates that one in seven children aged 10-19 years old has a mental disorder.
The effects of mental health disorders in adolescents can have a detrimental impact on their learning and social skills. The relationship between mental health and learning is complex, but it is proven that many students with poor mental health suffer negatively from the learning process.
Depression, for example, is one of the most common mental conditions among adolescents. Its symptoms may include social isolation, poor school performance, and even substance abuse. Depression is also a risk factor for suicide, and the WHO reports that around 700,000 people die from suicide every year. Being aware of the symptoms of depression is crucial to helping depressed students get the support they need.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in children and adolescents, affecting around 9–32% of them. Anxiety can be present in many forms, such as social anxiety, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
Anxiety disorders are very similar to depression in their symptoms and can also lead to poor school performance, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. The symptoms of anxiety include problems sleeping or eating properly, worrying excessively about things that may happen in the future, and feelings of restlessness or irritability.
Social Media – a force for good?
Social media can also harm mental health, especially in vulnerable adolescents. Social media has positive and negative effects on mental health as some platforms have a positive influence; however, others can cause serious problems such as cyber-bullying or online harassment.
Social media can have a direct impact on young people’s mental health by causing stress and anxiety, as well as do more indirect damage by influencing the way their friends behave and how they interact with peers. Young people can be negatively influenced by the behavior of their peers, who can be tempted to copy their rivals or chat about negative events, for example, a break-up or a job failure.
What can be done to improve pupils’ mental health?
Governments and schools are increasingly aware of the need to improve mental health education and services in schools, as it is crucial to offer students emotional support and prevent them from feeling isolated.
Schools can take an active approach to educating pupils on positive communication and the importance of good mental health. They can offer support to students by making sure they have access to guidance counselors or a school nurse, both of whom are trusted adults that students can confide in.
Do we recognize poor mental health triggers?
Although we now understand that many children and adolescents are not just dealing with normal problems of childhood, such as schoolwork or the loss of a relationship, there is increasing recognition of something known as ’emerging adulthood’. This is a period in which many young people have complex relationships with their social groups, have to deal with issues related to work and life changes, and may experience increased anxiety.
To help youngsters in this situation, schools need to offer the services that can help them manage these feelings. Schools should therefore provide support for mental health disorders so that children feel they can express their feelings without the risk of being stigmatized or expelled. The challenges many school children experience today include:
Abuse can come in many forms. It can be emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Victims of abuse can sense that something is wrong but are too afraid or unable to speak up at an early stage.
This can lead to self-injury, depression, suicide, and suicidal thoughts.
Bullying can take many forms, including physical assault and verbal abuse such as name-calling and humiliation. Bullying can leave victims feeling vulnerable, scared, and depressed. Teenagers who are bullied may also not have the skills necessary to cope with their situation, so they could resort to self-poisoning or suicide as a way out of their problems.
The family is a significant part of any child’s life. If it is disrupted by conflict, separation, or death, it can damage the young person’s mood and self-esteem. Tragically, thousands of children are affected by family breakdown each year, with the number on the increase.
Pregnancy and worries about relationships
Teenagers can worry about their relationships with their peers, family, and friends, as well as about getting pregnant, which can lead to depression. This can also happen when a teen concentrates on exams that may affect their future options.
Self-harm and suicide
Self-harm and suicidal thoughts can be caused by bullying. Those who self-harm often do so because they feel worthless or think that no one will care if they hurt themselves. They can also be victims of abuse themselves or live in poverty or schools without adequate safety for them.
Uncertainties over the future.
It is natural for children and teenagers to worry about their future as they may fear they will not be able to live up to their parents’ expectations. They may also have concerns about their future career, as well as problems choosing and maintaining a relationship, which can affect them psychologically.
As adolescents are going through many changes in this period, schools need to offer social and emotional support for the young people who require it the most. Students who are feeling isolated or rejected at school should be offered help in a non-judgmental way by adults with whom they feel comfortable talking. Schools can also help students by communicating with them about any health issues that could affect their mental health and wellbeing.
How are teachers prepared to deal with mental health issues?
Many teachers are not adequately trained or assessed to deal with children with mental health issues. Teachers must also deal with a wide range of issues such as anti-social behaviors, bullying and violence (e.g., physical, cyber, or emotional), bullying and violence in the classroom, substance abuse, complex emotions in the classroom, poor grades, and poor school performance.
Teachers may experience mental health problems themselves if they are depressed or know someone who has experienced this type of situation. By following professional guidelines to reduce the risk of developing depression and other stress-related illnesses, teachers can help themselves avoid becoming a victim of these disturbing issues at work in their own lives as well as deal with them more effectively daily.
In conclusion, mental health issues are very complex, and it is not easy to identify them. This is because often, there are no physical symptoms associated with mental illness, which makes it difficult to detect. Observing the following signs can help you identify if a student needs professional help:
- There has been a significant change in the way that children talk, dress, or behave;
- They suffer from mood swings and have difficulty concentrating;
- They seem unhappy or have lost interest in their activities and hobbies;
- They have trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating.
If you observe any of these signs, it may mean that your child needs some support from a specialist who can provide guidance on improving their mental health.