A common mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression affects 1 in 6 young individuals. Although 75% of diagnosable mental health issues appear before the age of eighteen, it takes an average of ten years to acquire adequate treatment.
Since depression and anxiety are among the top causes of mental illness and disability among adolescents, it is critical for those who work with children to be conscious of minimising stress and anxiety in the classroom and to be able to spot the signs of a child in distress.
What are the signs of stress and anxiety in the classroom?
With children spending seven hours a day at school, teachers need to know the signs of stress and anxiety. Here are some signs that teachers should be aware of:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor performance
- Feeling tired
- Change in eating habits
- Easily angered or irritated
- Frequent toilet visits
- Constant worrying and negative thoughts
- Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
- Emotional outbursts (e.g., crying or tantrums)
- Being clingy
- Disruptive behaviour
Symptoms of mental health conditions can often overlap (i.e. they are often ‘comorbid’). Also, a single instance may not always be cause for concern however if you notice multiple instances or a prolonged period of emotional and physical symptoms, longer than two weeks, for example, you should seek professional help.
Some schools have a designated mental health lead, a Mental Health First Aider, or Youth Mental Health First Aider, however, having all staff equipped with the ability to recognise mental health symptoms and the ability to support your Mental Health First Aider / designated mental health lead will lay the foundations for you to provide the necessary support to all students and create a positive classroom environment.
You’ll be better equipped to help someone struggling with mental health and facilitate their recovery if you understand the symptoms. All these topics and more are covered in our Basics of Mental Health Support training course, which provides an introduction to the mental health process. Or, how about placing teachers on our CPD-accredited Youth Mental Health Awareness course.
What can be done to reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom?
The best thing you can do to help reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom is to understand what factors affect mental health and work on limiting these.
There are occasions when factors in a child’s school environment can have an impact on their mental health, for example, public speaking, unfamiliar transitions and bullying. Identifying these factors can help you better understand how to help someone who is going through a difficult time. Cyberbullying, for example, can have a negative impact on young people’s mental health.
Understanding what it is, how it occurs, and how it affects people’s mental health can enable you to provide support to individuals who are affected while also reducing their exposure to it in the school setting.
We offer a variety of self-learning courses available to help you improve your mental health knowledge and provide the best possible environment for your classroom.
How can pupils be supported through stress and anxiety?
1. Start a conversation about mental health
One of the best ways to ensure mental health is spoken about in your classroom is to raise the topic yourself. This will increase the children’s awareness, reduce stigma around the topic and increase the likelihood that they will seek help when they need it.
We love starting with:
“Tell me about a time when you were happy/sad/stressed…”
“How well do you feel on a scale of 1-10?”
Opening up this conversation can feel daunting and adults often worry they will say or do the wrong thing. Here are some tips on talking to children about mental health that we find effective.
2. Read about mental health
Providing books that discuss various aspects of mental health is also great for creating an open space for mental health discussions. These books can also help children develop empathy towards people struggling with mental health issues, reduce stigma surrounding the topic and create confidence to seek help when it is needed.
Here are some children’s mental health books that we love. These range from short, fun, illustrated tales for younger children to longer features suited to older children and teenagers.
3. Mental health classroom activities
Sometimes the best learning is done through fun! We suggest opening up a mental health dialogue through doing engaging activities with the class. There are lots of great activities available online that tackle mental health in an age-appropriate way, allowing for children to learn how to articulate their thoughts and feelings.
Our #SockItToStigma activity pack can be a fun starting point to open opportunities to speak about mental health, breaking the stigma around this serious subject.
4. Complete mental health training courses
At Shawmind, we offer a wide variety of mental health courses designed for individuals and professionals to develop their understanding of mental health, learn how to best support young people, and what to do in an emergency.
We are also raising funds for our Headucation campaign that will enable us to offer free mental health education for teachers. We are mobilizing corporate sponsors and individuals to help us bring about a transformation in the mental health of the next generation: working with local educational authorities and partner organisations we are bringing a whole-school approach to mental health, helping schools to develop a culture shift towards sustainable better mental health and wellbeing – free of charge to the schools.
Help us by donating, fundraising or signing up for one of our courses.