Teachers have a big impact on their students, particularly youth. As educators, the role we play in the lives of our students reaches out past the traditional classroom. Unfortunately, the mental health of our students is something that is not always considered. The reality is that mental health is a very significant and relevant part of our students lives. Teachers are in a unique position within their profession, they have the opportunity to recognize and suggest seeking assistance to those who suffer from mental health related issues, meaning that teachers can “play an important role in the health and well being of Canadian youth”(pg.1). This is only possible if teachers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to recognize and intervene.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”(pg.1). Based on statistics, one in five students suffers from some sort of mental disorder. This makes mental disorders the most common condition affecting youth. Mental disorders are also considered to be the most disabling condition affecting youth.
Mental disorders affect a student’s emotional well-being, ability to learn, and are the reason some students drop out of school. According to Meldrum, Venn, and Kutcher, a three-pronged approach can be used to address mental health problems at school. These three prongs are:
- using the classroom for sigma reduction
- identify and intervene
- school curriculum meets mental health promotion.
Teachers can help advance mental health in schools by: supporting policy development, supporting the application of mental health curriculum, creating support systems within schools, and supporting the development and implementation of professional development for teachers surrounding mental health.
Meldrum, L., Venn, D., & Kutcher, S. (n.d.). Mental health in schools: How teachers have the power to make a difference. Retrieved from http://www.ctf-fce.ca/Research-Library/Issue8_Article1_EN.pdf.