As children’s mental health becomes one of society’s most pressing issues, many teachers find themselves on the frontline – with the effect being felt in schools across world. As per the psychologists, teachers in both primary and secondary schools reported seeing an increase in stress, anxiety and panic attacks in their pupils as well as a rise in depression, self-harm and eating disorders, more grave than previous years. But without specialist training – which isn’t currently a requirement – a lot of those working in schools feel unprepared for the challenges they are facing.
Here are some of the ways the teacher can provide help.
1. Start talking about it
Mental health needs to be integrated into the school curriculum, which will help increase understanding and reduce stigma around issues. Without this, pupils may not be aware their mental health is deteriorating and feel silenced or shamed when seeking help.
If both pupils and teachers have more open discussions about mental health, issues will also be easier to identify early on, and this will help to build students’ knowledge and understanding of the subject.
2. Create a safe space
Students do better in schools when they feel safe – this means ensuring that bullying incidents are low and addressed, including the rising incidents of cyber bullying.
3. Support for all
Everyone in schools from the teachers to the teaching assistants, the school lunch staff to the school nurse, all have a role to play in improving the school environment – and making it more open to discussions around mental health.
4. Make sure teachers know how to help
Head-teachers should demand mental health training for all new teachers. And before a school takes on a new or trainee teacher, they should ask to see what mental health training they have. This could include an understanding of the risk and resilience factors for their students, how to spot the signs of mental ill health, along with how to support and get help for students at risk.
5. Recognise that it takes a village
Looking after children’s mental health isn’t just something that can be done on a small scale, it involves a shift in the way everyone not only works together, but also communicates on issues.