IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS IN SCHOOLS
10 July 2021
Mental health is equally as important as physical health. Mental health awareness is an important issue for all educators, who are often the first line of defense for their students. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in five people live with some sort of mental disorder or disease. Despite the fact that the average age of early signs of mental illness is 14, most individuals don't seek help until adulthood. Underlining the seriousness is the fact that 60 percent of high school students with mental illness don't graduate. Until mental health education is a mandatory aspect of all schools, teachers and administrators can work to promote awareness with their students. Key elements to shine a light on include the concept of self-care and responsibility for one's own mental health and wellness, with an emphasis on the fact that mental health is an integral part of health, and the concept of recovery from mental illness.
Students are impacted by mental illnesses in a number of ways. Some students will experience their own mental health problems, and other students will have friends who are struggling with mental health issues. Some students will be impacted by a family member’s mental illness. Still others may be affected by an educator’s mental health problems. No matter how a student is affected by mental illness, they need information and resources in order to deal with it. Students need to know what mental illnesses are and be able to identify signs of mental illness in themselves or others. They need to know where they can go to ask for help if they or someone they care about is exhibiting signs of mental illness. And they need to know that they’re not alone. Knowing that others are living with mental illness, dealing with mental illness in the family, or supporting a friend with mental illness can make a student who is going through the same thing feel less alone.
People who don’t fully understand mental illnesses may make incorrect judgments or unkind assessments of people who suffer from mental illnesses. People with mental illnesses may also face discrimination in their communities – including in schools – as well as other types of prejudice. There are many signs and circumstances that may identify a student suffering from mental health issues. Small changes in behavior (such as being withdrawn or outraged after texting or using the internet) can be an indication of a much bigger problem (bullying). It’s important that we all become aware of the signs associated with mental illness, so we can provide support for those that need it. The earlier an issue is picked up, the better it is for the student.Increasing awareness of mental illness increases knowledge of mental illness. And with more knowledge, there are fewer stigmas. This means that students who have or suspect that they have mental illnesses may feel more comfortable reaching out for help. Students who live with a family member who has a mental illness will feel more empowered to talk about their experience and look for resources and support.
It is essential that teachers provide students with the opportunities, resources, and support they need. Mental health awareness can be promoted in school by Promoting positive self-esteem: Provide students with the tools and skills necessary to resolve conflict and the inevitable setbacks they’ll face. Boost their self-confidence by supporting good decision making, assertiveness, perseverance, and self-determination. Encourage students to eat healthy and provide healthy eating options. Provide outlets to relieve anxiety and stress: Physical activity, meditation and the arts are super for self-expression, growth, and work wonders on a student’s overall mental health and ability to handle stress. Promote school policies that support mental health such as bullying prevention. Display relevant material to students and families, such as the materials found on the websites for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the World Health Organization. Have an open-door policy – communicate to your students that you are available to listen to their concerns and issues. Communicate openly, honestly and often. Notice the little conversational openers students may offer up and ask non-judgmental questions. Be sure to pause and listen to what they have to say. Provide places where students can relax, such as quiet areas and lounge chairs.
Mental health disorders in students is a complex issue that requires a coordinated effort and multilevel approach from parents, schools, health care organizations, digital media outlets, and community outreach. Early detection and intervention are crucial factors in the goal towards reaching at-risk students before conditions manifest into more serious issues.
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