How Schools Can Increase Mental Health Support to Students
There is a mental health crisis in America, and many of America’s high school students are struggling. Fortunately, the government is recognizing the importance of this crisis. For example, the New York Times reported that Oregon and Utah passed new laws last year that allowed students to take sick days due to mental health. That there is now a need for such measures underscores the seriousness of the effects of mental health in education across the country.
These effects include mood swings, unpredictable behavior, discipline issues, and even school avoidance altogether. This has led to the increased importance of research shared by Maryville University that has found many connections between a student’s mindset and their education. The more a student struggles due to mental health issues, the more likely it is their education suffers, which in turn can become a deadly cycle. Depression and substance abuse are linked to over 90% of all suicide cases worldwide, and many students are part of that statistic. This is why schools need to give their students the necessary intervention to help them cope better with their sensitive situations. The suggestions below can help schools institutionalize support for students going through mental health issues.
Talk About Mental Health
Mental health issues must be talked about openly. As such, professor Damien Page of Leeds Beckett University recommends integrating mental health into the school curriculum. Doing so will increase everyone’s understanding of mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental health struggles. Schools must start incorporating discussions about mental health, and make sure it is talked about in the same way as physical education and healthy eating. In this way, they can adopt a thorough approach to discussing mental health that supports all pupils.
Strengthen the School’s Mental Heath Care Program
Given the rising number of students who may want expert intervention on their conditions, it is crucial that schools augment their mental health care staff with more experts. In this way, they will be able to accommodate and help more students. For instance, they should consider collaborating with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Center for School-Based Mental Health, or the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative as they can help enhance a school’s mental health care program. Schools might also consider programs such as our Online Training System. This system offers a range of expert-authored courses that guide teaching staff on how to prevent incidents of suicide.
Start School a Bit Later
Support can come in many forms. Sometimes, making things a bit easier for your students is already a way of supporting them. 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools start classes too early, and this has led doctors at the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend starting school no earlier than 8:30 AM. With this slight adjustment, students will be more likely to get the right amount of sleep for their age. Enough good sleep, of course, is known to foster mental and emotional resilience, as well as boost a person’s mood and enhance their well-being.
Establish Programs for Students’ Physical Health
People who are physically healthy are more likely to be mentally healthy too. So, address your students’ physical health needs as well. That means a public school should provide healthy meals daily, as students who regularly take healthy meals are more energetic and more attentive in class, and are less likely to experience food insecurity (a key cause of stress). Schools should also have a well-developed physical education program, one that gives students plenty of opportunities for physical activity. That’s because any form of exercise can improve one’s well-being. This, in turn, helps enormously in strengthening their mental health.
A Concerted Effort is Needed
Schools are the second home of students, and can play a big role in terms of helping students with their mental health. It is a role that will require a concerted effort among teachers and school administration so they can institutionalize programs such as those discussed above. This responsibility is one that schools need to step up to, especially given the potential trade-off: the chance to develop young men and women into responsible and mentally strong adults.
Written by Elizabeth Pate exclusively for SafeSchools.