Teachers play an important role in promoting the mental health of their students. In this lesson, you will learn why mental health is important and how you can help your students feel emotionally healthy.
Teachers and Mental Health
Teachers have a lot of responsibilities: helping students progress academically, taking on community leadership roles, and maintaining a safe classroom environment, just to name a few. Yet perhaps nothing is as important in a teacher’s work as promoting the mental health of students.
Students who are mentally healthy are more motivated, self aware, and able to participate in a classroom community. Moreover, students struggling with mental issues benefit from teachers who are supportive and aware of the issues they’re facing. Let’s learn about how you can promote your students’ mental well-being.
One of the most important ways that teachers can promote students’ mental health is via mentalization.
This concept refers to a constant process of attempting to understand another person’s experience. As a teacher, you can dedicate time each day to thinking about what your students are thinking and feeling. Keep in mind that every individual is different, so you will have to know your students and consider the ways they change over time in order to do an effective job at mentalization.As you gain in skill at mentalization, your students will benefit from the sense that they are understood at school. They will feel safer taking risks and asking questions, as well as reaching out when they are struggling with something.
Furthermore, you and your students will all benefit from the wonderful sense of closeness that can come from understanding another person’s point of view.
Explicit Strategy Instruction
Teachers can also work to help their students somewhat more explicitly with mental health. it can help to teach students particular strategies for taking care of themselves, as well as how to handle stressful scenarios. For instance, you can teach your students to:
- Meditate or do yoga as a way of coping with stress
- Talk to trusted friends or adults when emotions or stressors feel overwhelming
- Learn about triggers for hard feelings, like sadness and anger, and then learn how to prepare themselves when these triggers arise
- Name the things they are good at as a way of promoting their self-esteem, or sense of who they are and what their strengths are, and confidence
- Understand that hard feelings and struggles are a natural part of life, and not something to feel ashamed of
- Eat nutritiously, get enough sleep, and get regular exercise as a way of reducing stress and coping with challenging times
Partnerships between teachers and families are important for a number of reasons.
However, when it comes to promoting student mental health, it’s impossible to overemphasize the significance of this partnership. First of all, you should make sure parents understand that you are interested in their children as whole people, and you have their best interests in mind. Learn as much as you can about families’ habits and values, as well as how they handle hardships. Understanding your students’ families will help you understand your students and support them when they reach out to you.Regular conferences with families will help you develop this sort of understanding. Communication with families is also important as a way of helping parents boost their children’s self esteem. You should tell parents what you see as strong and special about their children.
Finally, make sure to communicate with parents if you notice changes in their children’s moods or behaviors. Having this partnership is essential to helping students stay mentally well.
In an ideal world, students would be mentally well all the time.
However, in reality, it’s crucial for teachers to understand the warning signs that mean you should seek outside support or more serious intervention. Be sure to talk to your school counselor or social worker if a student:
- Talks about self-injury
- Seems consistently sad or withdrawn
- Seems consistently angry or aggressive
- Changes dramatically in energy level or appetite
- Performs more poorly than usual academically
- Directly asks you to help her find help with emotional struggles
Teachers can play such an important role in promoting mental health among students of all ages. Mentalization, or focusing on seeing things from your students’ point of view, will enhance your relationship and help students feel safe and supported. Teaching students explicit strategies for mental self care is also important.
Finally, your students will benefit from your strong communication with families as well as your awareness of the warning signs of serious mental health struggles.