School Mental Health
The World Health Organization (year) defines mental health as “… a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. MH is important at every stage of human life. Everyone can experience mental distress as a normal response to the day-to-day life stress without a need for professional intervention. However, mental health problems are characterized by negative emotions, challenging cognitions, and various behavior difficulties that can severely affect persons’ functioning in daily life. At some point of life, almost everyone will experience mental states that may require some professional help. In contrast, mental illness is diagnosed according to internationally agreed criteria by trained professionals and such illness requires evidence-based treatment or intervention.
While some students can manage stressors on their own, others might need for example support from their family. From time to time, students can experience more severe psychological stress (e.g. negative emotions, disturbing thoughts, behavioral difficulties, sleep problems). Some levels of mental distress are normal, but everyone processes them in different ways and for different lengths of time. In a classroom of 30 students and average of 3 to 6 students are dealing with mental problems. Schools are ideal platforms for universal interventions to improve mental health of children and adolescents, offering optimal feasibility, cost-effectiveness, scalability and equity. The school is an optimal environment for fostering mental health literacy programmes, providing unlimited opportunities to learn and practice navigating healthy relationships, communication, conflict management and resolution, and coping skills. School teachers are the most effective at delivering such programs, and play a vital role in building and maintaining a healthy classroom environment.
Students’ mental health
Children and adolescents are often perceived as generally healthy, but did you know that…
15 year-old girls and 13% of 15 year-old boys reported “feeling low” more than once a week.
of children and adolescents experience mental health problems 1 in 5 children aged 13-18 already has developed, or is at risk of a mental illness.
1 in 4 adolescents also reports feeling nervous, feeling irritable, or having difficulties getting to sleep every week.
1 in 5 children aged 13-18 already has developed, or is at risk of a mental illness.
of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24.
Depression and anxiety are common in children and adolescents.
Both can affect the ways teenagers think, feel, and behave. Depression and anxiety contribute to the top 5 causes of overall disease burden.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 10-24 years old.
Also, the number of children and adolescents who were hospitalized due to the suicide attempt almost doubled from 2008 to 2015.
of adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
Untreated mild mental illness can lead to a more severe and more difficult to treat illness, and to develop co-occurring mental illness.
The average delay between the onset of a mental discomfort and its treatment is estimated to 6-10 years.
Despite effective treatments, there are long periods of untreated distress (psychological discomfort) when signs and symptoms are not recognised early.
Children from low-income families are 4 times more likely to experience mental health problems than children from higher-income families.
There are effective treatments for mental illnesses!
Teachers’ mental health
Teachers’ mental health is often neglected, and a large proportion of school teachers present high levels of burnout. Did you know that…
About 60% to 70% of all teachers repeatedly show stress symptoms and at least 30% of all teachers show distinct burnout symptoms.
of teachers suffer from severe emotional exhaustion.
feel low levels of personal accomplishment.
Teachers face a range of stressors, including:
- volume of workload
- constant time pressure
- neverending social interactions
- conflict resolutions with students, their parents, colleagues and supervisors
- strong public accountability
- inadequate financial reward
- lack of appreciation from society
- administrative burden
- frequent changes in the educational system
On My Mind recognizes the immense stress teachers face, and the impact that their profession can have on their personal mental health and well-being. Promoting classroom mental health and well-being starts with teachers’ role-modeling healthy behaviours to their students, and the On My Mind teacher training modules include self-care and burnout prevention techniques to support teachers in their work.