This is The Mav’s second editorial, a piece written on behalf of the publication’s editors about an issue they feel is important and have an agreed-upon stance. We chose this editorial topic because we, as editors, believe that teachers need to be informed to help students who may feel alone in their struggle. These articles are meant to persuade readers and to promote critical thinking and sometimes encourage people to take action.
It’s not uncommon for a student, at some point in high school, to struggle with mental health which can range from stress, to anxiety, to a number of other issues related to school or home which impact their mental health.
While a teacher is going through college, they should be required to have mental health training in order to prepare them for problems that may happen in the future.
“Addressing mental health needs in school is critically important because 1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable emotional, behavioral or mental health disorder and 1 in 10 young people have a mental health challenge that is severe enough to impair how they function at home, school or in the community,” says the Association for Children’s Mental Health.
Because of the number of students that suffer from mental health conditions, schools play an important role in the treatment of students. School is where students spend a large amount of their time. School can also be one of the largest stressors for students. Oftentimes, copious amounts of homework, tests, projects, peer pressure, relationships with other students/family, and other parts of school work can cause acute stress for students.
Additionally, what many adults may not realize at this time is that we struggle with the trauma involved in national incidents such as school shootings or even local threats which lead to school evacuations.
Although a few staff members have mental health training, it is important that all staff members in the building have at least some mental health training so that when a student is having problems, they can go to the trusted adult regardless of their school position. This trusted adult can be a bridge between the student and a mental health professional in or outside of their school.
If a student has any mental health issues (anxiety, depression, Bipolar disorder, etc), they are going to need help with managing these challenges while they are at school. For example, if a student has a panic attack in the middle of class, that student needs to have adults they can go to whether that person is a teacher, administrator, counselor, or school health official.
However, the concern with this solution is if a student’s trusted adult is a teacher, they may have a class when that student is in need or be in a meeting.
One possible solution to consider is having a plan for when a teacher needs to leave their class to help a student. This plan could include another teacher who can cover their class (who has a planning period), an administrator who could cover the class, or another staff member (counselor, SRO, etc). While contracts inhibit the school from taking away a teacher’s entire plan period, there is time allotted for times teachers could perhaps be available to help cover in a situation where a student is in dire need. Also, at any given time there are between 6-12 teachers on plan, so it is likely they could step in and help.
In recent years, Mead High School has worked hard to implement the suicide prevention program Sources of Strength. Sources of Strength works as “a universal suicide prevention program designed to build socioecological protective influences around youth and to reduce the likelihood that vulnerable youth/young adults will become suicidal.” Because this program does a good deal to help prevent certain hardships it encourages prevention as an effective strategy; however, there are times where it is too late for prevention and the situation must be dealt with at that moment.
Additionally, providing mental health education can not only benefit those suffering from mental illness, but also the other students in the class. According to an article published in 2014 “large, population-based studies surveying psychotic symptoms among adolescents have found rates of 9%–14% in interview-based studies and rates greater than 25% in some studies using self-report questionnaires.” In situations where a student may be suffering from psychosis, they could lose touch with reality and this could significantly impact their classmates and a teacher with training in this situation could protect all those involved.
Lastly, teachers and school officials (all those involved in a child’s education) have a duty to protect their students, and this should not exclude mental illness. It’s important that every student feels like they have a trusted adult to go to because not everyone has a parent or guardian to support them at home. By requiring teachers to have mental health training, we can ensure that every student will have someone they can go to if they’re struggling and fighting the invisible battle that is mental illness.