After parents and carers, teachers spend more time with children than anyone else which puts them in a perfect position to identify problems and help children solve them. Particularly with mental health, teachers are in the unique position of being able to identify, education and support students with mental health challenges.
With 1 in 6 school-aged children struggling with a common mental health condition, what can teachers do to help?
Spot the signs of mental health struggles
Knowing what signs of deteriorating mental health to look out for in children can help teachers to intervene (or instruct another authority to) before the child’s mental health reaches dangerous levels.
Make appropriate referrals
While teachers are an integral part of the process, there is no expectation that they are the whole solution to improving mental health in children: in many cases, teachers will need to signpost them to other resources or refer them for professional support.
The key here is that they make appropriate recommendations even before children reach a stage where they need clinical support – simply recommending some popular mental health resources for the children themselves can be a huge help for a student who is starting to struggle.
Facilitate mental health support in the classroom
Knowing what factors make a child more likely to develop a mental health condition can enable teachers to make adjustments in the classroom that can prevent conditions from developing further. E.g. if you know a child has recently been through a large transition like moving house, you can reduce the number of changes you make within the classroom that can contribute to their stress and anxiety.
Create a safe space to discuss mental health issues
While it may have lessened over the last few years, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health which can hold both adults and children back from talking about their struggles. Every year in February, we run our #SockItToStigma campaign which aims to get children openly discussing mental health and strengthen the notion that it’s ok to talk about it. Teachers need to continue this throughout the rest of the year so that students will be more likely to open up to staff and friends about mental health struggles and seek support.
Of course, teachers cannot do any of this without the proper training. Our #Headucation2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025 which will allow them to support 2.5 million children every year!
Right now, schools have to pay for mental health training themselves since it isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government – we want to provide as many fully-funded training sessions as possible. It costs £100 to train each teacher – help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.