Mental health services are so important in schools because the start of many mental health conditions often occurs during the adolescent years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, by the age of 14, half of individuals living with a mental illness will experience the onset of that illness. This number climbs to 75% by age 24. The National Alliance goes on to say that one in five youth live with a mental health condition. If these conditions are left unattended to, it could greatly impede student learning.
Thankfully, schools provide an opportunity to identify and provide services for mental health conditions. Educators play a key role in the identification of mental health conditions, as well as providing students with services and supports when conditions are identified.
What Educators Should Know
Knowing the signs of Mental Illness is important for educators. These warning signs could include:
- Signs of Anxiety (sweating, rapid heartbeat, etc.)
- Changes in eating habits
- Feelings of sadness
- Rapid mood changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive Defiance
Educators should know that they are not alone! They have access to resources when trying to meet the needs of students with mental health conditions. They can reach out to administrators, school counselors, and oftentimes to local youth services that partner with schools.
Providing Support in Schools
It is possible for a child with a mental health need to require special education services, even if that child earns good grades in school. This is especially true if he or she does not know how to engage or behave with others. When considering the whole child, education involves skills that correlate with daily life, including social and emotional skills, job training, and post-secondary skills. These are often addressed in an Individual Education Plans (IEP) that are created by a team of educators and the student’s parent or guardian. The plans are followed thoroughly by school personnel. An IEP helps put services into place that allow students to succeed in school. Educators and family members can come together to create a plan that will help students with mental health needs thrive.
Providing Support to Families
Schools can also provide parents with contact information to local mental health services that have partnered with the school. By utilizing school counselors and social workers, educators can rest assured that experts are reaching out to parents and families of children with mental health needs. Parents may need help understanding a diagnosis, getting support, and creating a supportive environment at home. Communication between schools and families is key. If educators and families keep student needs at the forefront of education, students with diverse needs can grow and have a healthy school experience. Communication and planning will help students get what they need, not only educationally, but emotionally and mentally.