Just like our family, teachers also play an essential role in a child’s development. They are considered a significant influence on the overall well-being of students, especially in academics. But what if the student is having mental health issues? In what ways can a teacher help a student experiencing mental health issues in school?
As an educator, you can make an imprint especially in the mental health status of the student. So here is a list of strategies you can do to support a student with a mental health issue and help them enhance their ability to function well in school.
Be Aware First Before Creating Awareness
“Awareness is the beginning of all change.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. Before taking some actions on dealing with mental health issues, teachers must always be prepared to understand and recognize symptoms and to be knowledgeable about the cause. The first step that teachers should not forget is by informing oneself first. Seeking some useful information and resources about specific sources of the mental health issue on children would make your effort worthwhile and decrease the stigma inside the classroom.
Open The Door Of Communication
Another way a teacher could help a student is by opening the door of communication. Doing this will create an avenue for students to think that there is a safe space built for them. It will also help them feel more comfortable in the environment they’re in, recognize their symptoms, and see that you empathize with them.
Always keep in mind that everyone moves in their unique way. Other people may think of the same beliefs, but others may not. As a teacher, you must be respectful of certain situations especially when the student you are dealing with has mental health issues because he or she might have grown up in a different culture. It is always essential to reflect on what you instill in your student because it might affect the student in choosing the best option in treating the condition.
Lessen The Triggers Or Risk Factors
Words are powerful than you think. In the case of students with mental health issues, it is something that we must consider before we speak. When a child routinely hears negative words, he or she may feel rejected and ridiculed. It will undoubtedly hold back students from taking opportunities and going out of their comfort zone. Some may even believe that others are mocking them because of their actions.
That is why teachers must be reliable in regards to reducing the risk that could trigger frustrations and anxieties to the student. They could do this by observing self-control, stimulating support, and encouraging self-expression.
Relieve The Occurrence Of Stress In The Classroom
“Research tells us that this is a common experience for those under stress. That everyone experiences stress and up to a certain level it can be helpful. Yet, stress can negatively impact one’s normal daily functioning or health.” Edna M. Esnil, PsyD said. Teachers must always be patient in all aspects. For example, giving rigid deadlines on home works every day might not be useful for students anymore. A student might struggle more on focusing, engaging, and studying. Thus, it may worsen their anxieties. Think of alternative ways to make home works fun for students to enjoy learning. You may also reinvent the way you discuss during class hours so that students may develop the love for listening.
Each student has a different pace of learning. Some may learn slowly, and some may learn the lesson fast. But whatever the case is, it does not erase the fact that all students want to be successful in school especially those with mental health issues. As teachers, it is important to empathize with children with mental health issues to help them regain control and focus in school. Avoid thinking that these children are just attention seekers because they are not.
Give Compliments When Needed
Dealing with low self-esteem especially within school premises is a challenge for students with mental health issues. Most of the time, they feel sensitive and anxious because of their peers. That is why, as teachers, it is essential to give some words of praise or compliment such as “Job well done” or “Keep it up” when students work hard in their school loads. Make sure to remind them that practice always brings improvement especially when faced with challenging assignments. In Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D. blog, she says, “If you are struggling with low self-esteem, it is encouraged that you seek some type of help and support to work through this issue, and to help you be the best version of yourself that you can be.”
Team Up With The Parents
Some parents understand the situation quickly but some may not. If their perception about mental health is towards the negative side of the track, might as well give your best shot as a teacher to make them feel that you are working as a team for the advancement of the children. You may want to propose some recovery goals to discuss with them and keep the conversation going. Also, it is essential to keep an open line of communication with them because they may see some behavior at home that you do not see in school while observing your student. Doing this will minimize misinterpretation and will lead to the mental recovery of the child.
Every move that you do as a teacher certainly makes an impact in the future of your student with a mental health problem. So be extra cautious about how you deal with them. Do not forget to pay attention to the symptoms, do some research, and team up with their parents to support them towards better mental health.