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Student mental health has become a real issue, especially over the last few years.  Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are becoming increasingly common among the youth of today.

A 2019 report from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the mental health of US high school students is revealing.  It states that more than 1 in 3 high school students reported experiencing persistent sad or hopeless feelings over the past year.

Meanwhile, in Singapore a study by the ICA found that the suicide incidence rate for youth aged 10-19 had increased from 4 in every 100,000 to 5.5 in every 100,000 between 2019 and 2020. 

What Are Student Mental Health Struggles?

Mental illness in students is more than just feeling sad on occasion.  It’s frequently detrimental to a person’s daily functioning, personal development and relationships.

Adolescents suffering from poor mental health may struggle to focus and complete even basic, routine tasks.

Mental health problems may also give rise to risky behaviors.  These include drug and alcohol use, physical violence, and hazardous sexual encounters.  Therefore, it is essential for families and schools to help young people protect their mental well-being.

It doesn’t matter where you teach.  It could be at an American public school, a high school in Singapore for international students, or any other educational institution.

Students everywhere need sustained and intensive mental health support more urgently than ever.  In fact, there are many things that you as an educator can do to provide it!

You can help your students through any mental and emotional struggles they might experience in the following concrete ways:

Four Ways To Support Student Mental Health Struggles

1. Consider Getting Mental Health Certification

As the number of students experiencing mental health difficulties rises worldwide, many teachers feel helpless.  In fact, most assume they lack the skills and knowledge to give their students the help they need. Some may even feel uncomfortable broaching the subject with students for fear of exacerbating the problem.

Other educators may still be holding on to antiquated ideas about mental illness and psychological well-being.  This leaves them unable, or perhaps unwilling even, to update their current mindset.

Seeking professional mental health training is a helpful first step!  Teachers who desire to provide their students with adequate psychosocial support often take on further training.

Research on anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders is constantly changing.  So, participating in training programs can upgrade current best practices and show how to use them in your classroom. 

2. Be Attentive To Changes In Student Behavior

Children and adolescents are much less likely to report or seek help for mental health problems.

Many young people can understandably, be reluctant to open up to others about their struggles.  This may be due to shame or fear, especially in places where mental illness is still heavily stigmatized.

Therefore, educators need to familiarize themselves with the common signs and symptoms of mental illness.  Knowing these allows people in authortiy to use this knowledge to proactively identify students at risk.

Teachers spend significant amounts of time with their students every day.  This gives them ample opportunities to observe them over long periods of time.

In fact, teachers are in a unipue position to spot and extend support to struggling students.

Some identifying signs that a student might be experiencing mental difficulties include:

  • A lack of interest in activities they ordinarily enjoy
  • Withdrawal from interpersonal relationships
  • Sudden emotional outbursts such as crying or lashing out in anger
  • Declining academic performance
  • A largely negative perception of themselves and the world
  • Poor eating and sleeping habits
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
student mental health struggles shows behavioral changes

Students suffering from mental illness benefit from feeling seen, recognized and cared for by trustworthy adults in their lives.

If you notice a student acting unusually in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and ask them how they feel. This gesture can often be the first step to identifying their problem.  Not only that, it can mean them getting the help and support they need to recover.

3. Help Student Mental Health Struggles With More Flexible Tasks

What do you do if you determine that a student is in need of mental health support?

Firstly, begin to think about how to better accommodate them in your class.  Measures you can take as a teacher include setting extended or flexible deadlines, if you feel this may help.

Break down large assignments into smaller tasks, or pair students up with classmates willing to help them.

However, you must resist the temptation to view these adjustments as compromising your academic standards.  You are simply recognizing the reality that different students have different needs.

4. Work Closely With School Counselors And Psychologists

You find yourself short of ideas for helping at-risk students in your classes.  In fact, you could notice especially severe mental health problems among certain students and feel “out of your depth”!

Consider referring them to your school’s guidance and counseling office. These departments typically employ licensed psychologists and other mental health professionals.  Their job is to offer additional assistance to those who need it. 

There are many interventions that school guidance departments typically implement.  They include regular counseling sessions and other structured activities that promote mental well-being.  They’ll also be able to coordinate with students’ families. 

In fact, these professionals can refer students in need to more specialized, community-based mental health services.

Refer student mental health struggles to schools guidance councilor

Wrap Up

Student mental health is more problematic today than it has ever been.  Adolescents living with mental illness recover better if they have a strong support system behind them.

Proactive support from concerned teachers can make all the difference to struggling students and their families.

If your students feel safe and cared for in your classroom, they’ll be better able to tend to their own well-being, and seek whatever help they need.

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