For those of you who work in education, it comes as no surprise that the discussion around student mental health is now prevalent, largely due to the increase in school violence and student suicide rates. Though these incidents are tragic as well as controversial, no one can deny that they have also thrust into the spotlight what many educators already knew was a growing problem within the education system: a lack of adequate training, programs, and prevention practices regarding the mental health of students.
Classroom teachers and administrators are typically not qualified or trained to detect mental health issues affecting their students. Sure, many educators, through years of experience, have learned to pick up on certain hints, actions, and triggers, but someone who has never been trained to look for these signs, especially a new educator, is going to have a hard time recognizing them. As a result, schools nationwide are now implementing training programs for their staff to learn more about how to identify and manage student mental health issues.
In Fauquier County in Virginia, many district educators as well as community members have undergone a mental health first-aid course, a program designed to help adults identify the signs of mental health issues among children and understand how to address them. Once someone has completed the grant-funded program, they are issued a purple lanyard to wear that helps identify them to students. The effects of the program have been positive, so much so that neighboring counties are now looking into the training as well (Zalaznick).
Additionally, the National Council for Behavioral Health along with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation have sponsored a similar training program in Montana, a state known for its high rates of suicide. At Jefferson High School, teachers and students are receiving training as well as delivering it to their peers (Zalaznick). Schools in New York are also following suit. The state has implemented an online training program for educators to learn more about student mental health (Buckley). The state recently passed a law that “…requires all schools to teach some forum of mental health to students” (Buckley). Plans are now being put into place to ensure funding for this training is secured in the New York state budget (Buckley).
The topic of mental health is becoming less taboo. Discussing and managing our children’s mental health has become just as important as discussing their homework and school activities. Learning to be as prepared as we possibly can may seem like a daunting task, but with time and proper training, it doesn’t have to be.
What are your schools doing to help better prepare you in learning more about student mental health issues? Share with us in the comments below.
Update: Ohio is now piloting mental health awareness training in several areas of the state. Check out the following link for more information: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/PBIS-Resources/Project-AWARE-Ohio
Buckley, Eileen. “Online mental health training for educators.” WBFO 88.7. (2019). https://news.wbfo.org/post/online-mental-health-training-educators.
Zalaznick, Matt. “Implementing mental health first aid in K-12.” District Administration. (2019). https://districtadministration.com/implementing-mental-health-first-aid-in-k-12/