Bringing Attention to Mental Health in Schools

In a recent article by BBC News Education, the current state of mental health amongst students was explored. These students require additional support to help them cope and eventually recover, but their needs cannot always be met outside of school. Therefore services should be put into place within the walls of the school to check up on the wellbeing of students and to provide them with a safe place to talk.

School is where a student spends majority of their time from age 4 to age 18, it’s the place where we meet our greatest friends, we learn about how the world works through the pages of a book or the screen of a computer or other device. We come across teachers, some energetic and some mellow, who later become role models through their faith and belief in us which we took for granted at the time.

We also come across students who we don’t quite take to and this can sometimes end badly with constant clashes and little resolution. It is also the time when we are growing up, moving on from childhood to teenhood — the awkward stage where we’re not quite sure of ourselves yet and we either develop very quickly or very gradually over the years.

“Exercise Plays Vital Role Maintaining Br” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by A Health Blog

I myself, remember speaking to my family about feeling stressed, nervous and paranoid all the time and the response I received was ‘What do you have to feel stressed about? You’re at an age where you don’t have a single worry in the world.’ I hate to think of the ignorance of this sentence. As an adult, do we forget about what we went through as young people, how it made us feel and the thoughts that ran through our minds, or do we just block it out? In reality there are many factors that happen to us as young people that can result in unstable mental health.

Triggers for this can be problems at home. A student can appear to be happy and pleasant in the classroom or rebellious and outspoken and it’s easy to say that this is good or bad behaviour and put them on ‘report’ to monitor whether they make a change or not. But we never stop to think that this child may have it hard at home — perhaps they’ve experienced a loss in the family or a parent is very unwell. Perhaps they have more responsibility at home than they should have at that age or their parents are going through a messy divorce.

It can also be problems at school. Maybe they’re the shortest or the tallest in the class, maybe they’re not as academic as others and feel pressured to do well, maybe they don’t have the cleanest uniform because they don’t have enough shirts or hot water, maybe they’re an overachiever and have set their goals very very high, maybe they get bullied by other students both in class and over social media, maybe they are the bully that needs to feel stronger than their victim.

These factors can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts; it can be traumatic for a young person. If they have no support or no one to help them cope, then it becomes a case for them and their mind — solitude. When you’re sitting there alone thinking of your problems, it doesn’t make them better, it can make you feel more stressed, more anxious, more emotional and you can wind up coping less and less. Having that support and having someone to speak and vent to, it can make an incredible difference. Unfortunately teachers do not always have the time to ensure that every one of their students is feeling okay and more to the point, they are not mental health experts, but there are specialist services that can provide this support. They can lend an ear or intervene if it is needed and they can make sure that the students in question are being helped and have someone there to help them. They can suggest coping strategies and take them through activities and exercises that both suit the needs of the student and help them cope.

Services to aid students with mental health issues are sorely needed, it is not an over-exaggeration, it is not a stage of growing up or acting out — it must be addressed and care must be given.

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