Supporting mental health at school
Consider the question that was asked at the end of the What Is Mental Health? video:
“If you wanted to improve the mental health of as many people as you could, what would be the best time and place to do that?”
Just as we need to take care of our physical health to prevent problems from developing, we must also take care of our mental health. And the earlier in the lifespan this begins, the better.
Children and youth spend a significant amount of time at school. So it makes sense that schools offer a natural venue for improving mental health outcomes. They play an important role in promoting positive mental health, identifying and intervening early to prevent problems, and responding in times of distress.
We know that when students are preoccupied with social and emotional needs, their capacity to be present and engaged in learning is compromised. But with increased opportunities to develop social and emotional skills, capacity for learning is strengthened and academic outcomes improve.
While it is not the educator’s role to attempt to diagnose mental health problems, they can:
- identify students who may need additional mental health support
- connect those students with appropriate services
- teach skills to enhance all students’ mental health functioning at school
To promote optimal mental health and build resilience in their students, educators can:
- talk about mental health openly to reduce harmful stigma that could prevent students from seeking help when needed
- recognize and address mental health concerns with the help of mental health professionals
- explicitly teach cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills that promote mental health
- create supportive school environments where students:
- – feel connected with a caring adult who knows them and understands their perspectives
- – have opportunities to become involved in meaningful social activities
- – are taught effective ways to manage stress and conflict and have them modelled by adults
- – are encouraged and supported to take healthy risks
- – experience open communication between home and school
What are the routines and practices you currently use to support your students’ mental health? Record your response using Take Notes or another format of your choice.