A teacher began noticing some drastic changes in her student in a short amount of time. The student who was performing on an above-average level from the beginning of term stopped doing her homework and began coming to school in the same clothes every day, although she had been meticulous about her appearance previously. She seemed quieter, more distant and more withdrawn.
Luckily, the teacher had training in identifying and managing mental health issues, therefore recognized the signs in her student right away. She was able to determine that her student needed support and that immediate intervention was necessary to cope with the trouble her student was going through.
The student managed to get the help that she needed in time and with therapy, she not only managed to graduate with her class but also overcome her mental health issues. The educator was trained enough to notice the signs and respond accordingly.
In a perfect world, we would all be mentally healthy. However, we know that this is not the case. Now more than ever, mental health in our youth is steadily on the decline, and the percentage of depressed and anxious children is steadily rising to unfathomable numbers. Sadly, a lot of youth who desperately need help do not receive it when and how it’s needed because either the program is unavailable or inaccessible to the child.
According to a new study, this is the exact reason why clinicians are calling for coping and social skills training and more extra-curricular activities in schools to help prevent increasing mental health problems in children.
The research led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, MCRI is also pushing for more effective ways to upskill educators and mental health prevention identification and early intervention. The clinicians believe the education system could play an important role in improving access to mental health services and make it easier for schools to identify at-risk children and provide them with timely mental health services.
“Schools as buildings act as a trusted physical space where mental health clinicians could offer services that are otherwise challenging to access,” she said. Clinicians believed teachers can offer prevention by supporting children through school-wide psychoeducation, sport and social skills and coping programs,” said MCRI researcher Kate Paton.
MCRI Professor Harriet Hiscock, said mental health problems have such a large adverse effect on children’s education progress that academic potential couldn’t be achieved unless schools address student mental health.
“With about 50 percent of mental health disorders beginning before the age of 14 years, prevention and early intervention are paramount if we want to reduce lifetime prevalence of mental health disorders and allow children to live their best possible lives,” she said. Improving mental health for children and adolescents has therefore become an international priority,” said Professor Hiscock.
MCRI also piloted a mental health program within 10 primary Schools by embedding a child mental health and well-being coordinator within schools to help identify and manage mental health issues in students and provide connections between education, school and health services.
Mentally healthy students are more likely to go to school ready to learn, actively engage in school activities, have supportive and caring connections with adults and young people, use appropriate problem-solving skills, have non-aggressive behaviors and add to a positive school culture. It simply makes sense to provide youth with mental health services where they actually spend most of their day.
Here are some reasons why it is a great idea for schools to adopt mental health services:
- Kids are already there. Well, clinics can feel awkward and schools are a natural setting for kids. Since they are there every day then it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for them to receive help while they are already there.
- Families have easier access when therapy or a mental health expert is available right at school; it makes it more convenient and easy for families who are already juggling so much with their busy schedules.
- Less stress. Schools can help reduce the stress in students’ lives because kids are able to check in on a daily basis with a mental health supporter and drop off the weight of the stress while they are at school by discussing their problems. The problems which are treatable!
- Well-trained staff. Having a well-trained professional on the school grounds makes it easier to identify distressed student behavior and students who are at risk can be identified at an early stage. Early detection and intervention strategies work. They can help improve young people’s resilience and their ability to succeed in school & life.
- Increased awareness. Having mental health professionals within the school is a great resource because it brings mental health awareness to others, how to treat people who are not mentally healthy and overall promotes emotional support and well-being for the students. It is important to raise awareness of the fact that mental health problems are common and often develop during childhood and adolescence.
The benefits of having such trained staff and educators present at school are innumerable and very much needed as the rates of depression and anxiety are soaring in our children. More importantly, children cannot reach their full potential or make academic progress if schools don’t begin to take mental health seriously.
Educators have identified many challenges in obtaining the necessary support, citing perceived stigma, lack of resources, and also lack of understanding of clinician’s views but also hope to bridge the gap to achieve a good education and good mental health outcomes.
Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Academy has developed a training program especially aimed towards educators that care about the emotional well-being and resiliency of the students. The ELMA program provides explicit teaching of personal and social capabilities that support resilience and wellbeing, under four focus fundamental areas. The program focuses on teaching skills on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social Management.
For schools that are interested in piloting a training program at their schools to train educators regarding emotional well-being and building resilient students, please contact https://emotionalliteracyacademy.com/schoolprograms/ for more information.
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ABOUT THE FOUNDER
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what to do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognized in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia, and Australian Financial Review.
As a child, she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult, this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
This is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.