Mental Health Education in Schools
Talking about mental health
- Students need open and ongoing conversations to help decrease the stigma surrounding mental health. The earlier these conversations start the better, since around 50% of all mental health illnesses begin before the age of 14, and many cases go undetected and untreated. School-wide strategies to increase awareness, such as providing mental health and well-being tips in the morning announcements or assemblies, can go a a long way in promoting productive conversations.
Providing appropriate training for teachers and staff
- Educators need training to appropriately identify and respond to signs of mental health issues. Teachers are often the first adults that students turn to in times of distress or crisis, but many report feeling unprepared to support students directly or refer out for additional services. Schools need resources to provide in-depth training and on-site mental health support services to comprehensively and effectively address student needs.
Incorporating mental health into teaching
- Mental health education can be integrated into academics and classwork in a way that doesn't overly burden teachers. For example, a Social Studies lesson may identify and discuss mental health topics (e.g. trauma, stigma) in books that students are reading. Younger students may learn about how to identify, describe, and manage emotions, while older students may learn about and discuss social implications of different mental health issues.
Providing helpful tools for students
- School counselors play a central role in providing direct services to students in need. However, the average student-to-school-counselor ratio is 482:1, nearly double the 250:1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Without easy access to a counselor, educators might consider other mental-health building tools that can be incorporated into the school day, such as:
- Relaxation techniques
- Physical exercise
- Art (visual arts, theater, music)
- "Break" or "Time Out" space
Taking care of teachers
- In addition to addressing students' mental health needs, schools also need to make sure to support educators' mental health needs. Teachers experience high levels of daily stress, which also has a negative impact on students' social adjustment and academic performance. Various organization and/or individual-level programs, including workplace wellness programs, teacher mentoring, and practices like mindfulness can help.
Information provided by Student Behavior Blog
Visit mentalhealth.gov to learn what to look for...
- Anxiety Disorders
- Behavioral Disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
- Eating Disorders
- Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
- Mood Disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and self-harm
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Personality Disorders
- Psychotic Disorders, such as schizophrenia
- Trauma and Stress Related Disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to get facts on common conditions such as those related to anxiety, attention ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and trauma.
Visit the Colorado School Safety Resource Center for fact sheets on many disorders.