What Schools Should Teach about Mental Health
By Emily Edgar
Mental health is an extremely important subject to be taught in school. If students are not taught about the feelings that they are experiencing, it will affect how they process their emotions, whether internally or externally, leading to abnormal thoughts of behavioral issues. The feeling of isolation students face when these emotions aren’t talked about can lead to much bigger consequences, like suicidal thoughts, or actions. So many aspects of mental health should be taught in school for the safety of students and others.
The biggest thing for teachers is to know the warning signs to mental health issues and who they should turn to if they feel a child is at risk. Signs of mental illness include students withdrawing from activities, change in appetite, outbursts of violence, and self harm. Educators need to have the proper training to be aware of their surroundings so they can help at-risk students.
One of the first things schools should teach students about is stress and how to manage it. One of the first times I remember feeling stress was worrying about making the time limit during multiplication tests in the third grade. At such a young age, I would go home and worry all night long about how slow I was going to be. Instead of learning a healthy way to resolve this issue, like practicing my multiplication tables, I developed bad habits of procrastination.
In a study of high school students, 68% said they felt most stressed after receiving a bad grade. Out of all the things teens stress about, well over half them are most stressed about school-related topics. Students also said that having a healthy way to cope, like talking to teachers, peers, and parents, would help the most with school related stressors. If you want to read more about this, sciencebehindstress is a great source.
Self Identity is something students also struggle with a lot. Your teen years are about figuring out who you are and what you want to be. Over the past couple of years things such as sexuality and gender identity have been a huge topic with highschool age students. These have been very controversial issues in the news, so having a safe place at school is important for these students so that they feel accepted and valid.
The likelihood that gender non-conforming students report mental health concerns is four times higher than the average student. These issues include depression and suicidal thoughts. More than 58% of gender-minority students screened positive for depression. LGBTQ+ students also have reported that 71% have had a feeling of sadness or hopelessness due to mistreatment at school. Insidehighered and medicalnewstoday share information about this subject.
The feeling of hopelessness leads directly to depression. School should inform students about this illness as early as 5th grade, because the third leading cause of death between 10-24 year olds is suicide. Most mental illnesses appear before the age of 14, and that is a very vulnerable time in a student’s life, so having the extra stress of not being able to understand their feelings can be, and often is, life threatening. Brainforest is a good source for information about this subject.
Depression affects everyone differently, and it is important for students to understand that. Students often relate their self worth by comparing themselves to others. Kids should learn healthy ways to cope with these feelings. These coping mechanisms should be taught early on so that in later life they are not required to have invasive treatments, like drugs or neurotherapy. Brainforest mentioned this as a consequence.
Having access to the proper support from teachers, peers, and parents could save lives.
At such a pivotal time in youth development, schools should take the time to make sure students are aware of mental health issues. Having access to the proper support from teachers, peers, and parents could save lives. Knowing the warning signs and being willing to help is what we need to be asking of schools, because that’s where students spend most of their time.
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