Supporting Your Students with Mental Health Disorders
Teachers are expected to do so much in one day. It’s no easy job. Teachers are expected to act as parents, counselors, tutors, disciplinarians, and more! 1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years old have a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Worldwide 10%-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. It is a growing issue among children and adolescents, and it can be overwhelming. Teachers have their own mental issues to overcome every day, so what can a teacher do to help their students who may be struggling?
Teachers should be mental health literate.
What is mental health literacy? Mental health literacy is defined as:
- Understanding how to foster and maintain good mental health
- Understanding mental disorders and their treatments
- Decreasing Stigma
- Understanding how to seek help effectively
The most common mental health disorders among students are depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, tourette syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, substance abuse and eating disorders. Many schools have resources available to help these kids. A school may have counselors, school psychologists, social workers, teacher aids, student aids, learning development classrooms, time out classrooms, and many alternative teaching abilities. Knowing about these resources and implementing them are essential to being mental health literate.
There is a clear connection between mental health and academic performance. If a student deals with a lot of anxiety, it may be hard for them to come to school or participate in class. If a student has an eating disorder, they will not feel comfortable during the class food parties or during lunch period. If a student has been through a trauma such as sexual abuse the night before, they certainly won’t be thinking about math class. Teachers can make a difference by understanding mental health, its signs and symptoms.
Accommodations that teachers can give to students include the following:
- Special seating, especially near the door to allow leaving class for breaks
- Assigned classmate as volunteer assistant
- Beverages permitted in class
- Tape recorder use
- Note taker or photocopy of another student’s notes
- Private feedback on academic performance
- Exams in alternate format such as orally versus essay form
- Use of assistive computer software to help them sear or understand better
- Extended time for test taking
- Exam in a separate, quiet, and non-distracting room
- Substitute assignments in specific circumstances
- Permission to submit assignments handwritten rather than typed
- Written assignments in lieu of oral presentations or vice versa
- Extended time to complete assignments
Teachers have had, and will continue to have, students in their classroom that are experiencing mental health issues. It is important that teachers take the necessary steps to ensure that they are creating a safe space for these students.
There are many online professional development courses that CE Credits Online provides that will dive even deeper on subjects around mental health and a loving classroom. Here are a few: