Helping Students Live Healthy and Productive Lives
We all know that teaching has become more and more demanding as well as stressful during the past 15-20 years.
Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) tell us that more and more of our students between the ages of 13-18 – as many as 1 in 5 students – now struggle with a mental illness of some type. Budget cuts in education and mental health services across the country have left schools with inadequate resources to serve the growing needs of students in our schools. The American School Counselor Association recommends that schools should have one counselor on staff for every 250 students yet the national average was one for every 500 students. NAMI reports that at least half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14 yet the average time between when symptoms first surface until treatment is 8-10 years for most people. They also report that at least half of those children will drop out of school and 70% of them are likely to end up in state and local juvenile justice systems.
While teachers may feel that they are expected to handle all of the needs of their students, teachers should not feel that they have to be mental health experts as well as instructional experts. Teachers should leave the job of diagnosing mental conditions, placing labels on students and providing counseling and/or therapy to those who are trained to handle these difficult concerns and issues. As the “front line of defense” for students, teachers should be caring individuals who know how to listen, show that they care for the students in their care and understand how to connect students with the services and supports they need with regard to mental health.
Teachers should, however, understand the extent of the problems that students may face, be able to spot key warning signs that students may need more help from trained professionals, understand the legal and ethical considerations related to mental health issues and understand how to improve the dynamics of teaching and learning for students who may bring mental health concerns to the classroom. In light of this need, Teach & Kids Learn has created an online course that is designed to help educators answer the following questions:
- What types of mental health concerns do children bring to the classroom?
- What is the extent of these problems in children and how might they be expressed in the classroom?
- What risk factors and warning signs should I be aware of with my students that warrant referral to mental health professionals?
- How can I make my classroom environment more accommodating, both physically and socially, for my students who may be battling mental illness?
- How can I avoid inadvertently exacerbating student problems or set off trigger behaviors that may disrupt learning for students in my classroom?
The world of mental health is also filled with legal and ethical considerations for which classroom teachers in most states have not been trained. Many cases have been brought against school districts, particularly in the case of student suicide for failure to identify and provide services to students with mental illness. A teacher’s best line of defense is to know and understand the district’s policies and bring issues, questions and concerns to whomever is charged with supporting and working with mental health issues in the school or district.
Here is an online course that can help educators address this issue in their schools and classrooms.
Click here: “Supporting Our Students Through Childhood Trauma“