Over the last few years, we have seen an increased awareness about mental health problems in children, teenagers, and adults. While these problems severely affect adults, these can be alarming in children, too. Children experiencing mental health issues tend to suffer in their academic life and later in their careers. In the last few years, the number of children and teenagers experiencing mental health problems has alarmingly increased. The situation will continue worsening if not handled timely. Families and schools need to collaborate on providing adequate support and counseling to children struggling with mental health problems. With proper awareness and support from schools, children can learn to cope with these challenges and become responsible citizens.
In this article, we have shared different ways for tackling mental health problems in school. Continue reading to learn how teachers and counselors can help children.
1. Understand Children’s Mental Health Needs
According to several estimates, 1 in 4 children and teenagers affected by a mental illness do not receive the required mental health support. The first thing schools can do to improve children’s mental health is to understand these needs in the first place. Even today, many schools do not emphasize children’s mental wellbeing despite having such alarming numbers. However, schools need to step up in this regard by being more attentive to students and paying attention to any signs and symptoms declarative of a mental illness.
2. Hire Mental Health Counselors
Being a mental health expert is not a prerequisite for teachers, but every teacher should have a basic understanding of mental health and related issues. Schools should hire professional mental health counselors to provide the students with adequate support. They can also encourage their teachers to enroll in online masters in school counseling to gain insight into this field. The more teachers are aware of mental health, the better they can help each student. If teachers acquire education in relevant areas, they will be better equipped to deal with children experiencing different mental health problems.
3. Educate Parents and Students
Besides hiring professional counselors, schools also need to educate students and parents about the importance of mental health. 1 in 10 youngsters faces a mental health challenge severe enough to affect their social wellbeing. They tend to self-harm, develop eating disorders, or contemplate suicide if they don’t receive timely attention. So, if parents are more aware of these issues, they will notice signs and symptoms and intervene timely.
4. Develop an Open-Door Policy
Schools should implement a strong open-door policy for all teachers. Although every teacher is not a mental health expert, every student feels comfortable with different teachers. Students may be more comfortable sharing with a particular teacher and not necessarily with the school counselor. Besides, if their favorite teacher asks them to discuss their problems with the counselor, they may be more willing than before. Therefore, it is essential for all school teachers to be empathetic towards children and have basic mental health knowledge. If teachers are well-equipped to convince students to get help, they are more likely to listen and acknowledge their problems.
5. Create a Positive School Environment
Children spend a considerable time of their day at school. If their school is not a safe space, they won’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about their mental health struggles. Schools should make conscious efforts to make children feel included and heard. Besides having strict policies against bullying and discrimination, management should actively monitor the implementation of those policies. Teachers and counselors should try their best to make the school’s overall environment positive and safe for the children’s well-being. Children tend to be more open about any issues they face if they feel the environment is more inclusive. When children feel their voices matter, they speak up about their challenges.
6. Schedule Social Time
School is not all about reading, writing, and learning new things. Since children spend most of their day at school, it is also a place to socialize with their peers. Children need to be able to interact with their fellows, create new bonds, and make friends so they can function properly. Teachers should schedule at least half an hour every week for students to socialize with each other. They should encourage students to talk to their fellows about anything other than their curriculum during this scheduled time. They can talk about their favorite movies, storybooks, toys, pets, or candies. Besides talking, they can also complete small tasks together and solve problems to learn teamwork.
7. Include Mental Health in the Curriculum
Even in the twenty-first century, mental health and associated disorders are treated like taboos. Most people don’t talk about these issues because they are afraid of being judged or ridiculed. To break this bias against mental health issues, schools can play a vital role by including such topics in the curriculum. When these issues are highlighted in books and integrated into reading materials, it will create awareness. Besides that, doing so will normalize talking about such problems. As a result, teachers, parents, and children will feel comfortable discussing such issues without any fear of judgment.
8. Organize Wellness Weeks
Schools should consciously put mental health and psychological wellbeing at the heart of their policies. One such way of doing this is organizing regular wellness weeks. In these weeks, parents should be invited to the school to learn about the importance of mental health.
Schools can arrange different activities and seminars to create awareness about various issues children face. Besides, different mindfulness sessions can help attendees learn different stress management techniques and improve focus. Moreover, students will also get to interact with their fellows outside of the classroom, which can benefit their social well-being.
The Bottom Line
Mental health problems are becoming prevalent in children, adolescents, and teenagers. In recent years, the number of affected children has significantly increased. If children do not receive the required help, they may develop severe mental health and behavioral problems in the future. To help children face these challenges, parents, teachers, and counselors need to collaboratively provide them with adequate support. Schools should educate their teachers about mental health, hire professional counselors to help children, and stay in touch with parents about their child’s well-being. When everyone works together, they can provide children with the support and treatment they need at a proper time to avoid any chronic problems.