The mental health epidemic in schools, part 2: An educator’s role

William Woods EDU

In our last Look Into Education post, we discussed the mental health crisis that is sweeping across schools in the U.S. — with estimates of one in five children experiencing some type of severe mental illness in their life.

We’ve discussed the role of education leaders in this crisis, however, in this post we will focus on the role of teachers in offering support, and how William Woods’ bachelors in education students can prepare to fill those support roles.

Of the many children with mental health issues, it is estimated that nearly 80 percent will not receive the mental health services they need.

“Whether treated or not, the children do go to school. And the problems they face can tie into major problems found in schools: chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior and dropping out,” explains an article in NPR’s ongoing series, A Silent Epidemic: The Mental Health Crisis in Our Schools.

“Experts say schools could play a role in identifying students with problems and helping them succeed. Yet it’s a role many schools are not prepared for.”

Teachers in particular are in the prime role for noticing changes in behavior, especially because, in many cases, they see their students more than that child’s family does throughout the week.  They are on the front lines of opportunity for student involvement and monitoring: reading student essays, watching how they interact with classmates, seeing changes in their mood and behavior.

Their role is not necessarily to address or treat a student’s mental disorder, but to monitor and identify, and to notify the proper sources: a student’s parent or mental health professional if that school has one on staff.

Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those with mental illnesses across the U.S., highlights a few warning signs to look for in your students that may indicate they are suffering from a mental illness:

  • Decline in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Constant worry or anxiety
  • Repeated refusal to go to school or to take part in normal activities
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting
  • Persistent disobedience, aggression or temper tantrums
  • Depression, sadness or irritability

William Woods bachelors in education students will take courses and participate in student teaching experiences that teach them to be observant of the students in their classrooms, to measure and assess student learning and behavior and focus on classroom management. They can also take courses like Child Development and Behavior or Psychology of the Adolescent and the Middle-Level Child to help them better understand the cognitive, biological, emotional and social development of children, as well as how they are effected by their environments.

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