Mental health issues affect thousands of scholars today. Pressures from home and school can leave students feeling overwhelmed, causing stress and anxiety and sometimes leading to depression. This affects their ability to master new skills, make new friends, work on assignments, or cope with day-to-day challenges. Life in school generally becomes a struggle.
While seeking professional mental health services may help, there are several other things that teachers could do to help students overcome various mental health challenges. We will look into that in a few but first, let’s find out – exactly why is mental health important for students at school.
Why is Mental Health Important for Students?
According to mental health experts, good mental health is essential for the proper functioning of students. It helps them not only thrive in academics and build meaningful friendships but also grow into resilient young adults. Here are more reasons why schools should support student mental health.
1. Improved Concentration
Students need to focus when doing their schoolwork. Lack of concentration can negatively impact their creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to complete assignments or learn anything new. Children and teens experiencing mental health problems are also less likely to graduate.
On the other hand, students who take care of their mental health are able to deal with stressors related to falling behind in coursework more effectively. They can handle challenging topics, digest new information more easily, and for the most part, they feel more in control of their academics.
2. Lower Stress Levels
When students have good mental health, they feel good about themselves and have confidence in what they do. They stress less about tests and assignments, facing social interactions, or participating in group discussions. This, in turn, improves their self-esteem and minimizes their risk of depression. The reduced anxiety also enables scholars to perform better in class because they spend more time studying rather than worrying about an upcoming coursework task.
3. More Energy and Enthusiasm
A student’s character and personality may be negatively impacted by mental health challenges. This could cause the student to have less energy and passion for college life. As a result, they may lack the enthusiasm to partake in extra-curricular activities, leave their accommodation, or generally face the experiences that come with school life.
Having good mental health can help keep students excited about school life. It can prevent the thoughts of apathy that may cause them to become isolated or unable to effectively engage with their peers and school activities.
4. Reduced Suicide Cases
Suicide has been labeled one of the leading causes of death for teens and young adults. The majority of adolescents who attempt suicide usually have a notable mental illness, in most cases, depression.
Depression in teenagers is often caused by bullying at school, increased societal pressure from social media, or feelings of self-doubt or pressure to succeed. And for most teens, self-inflicted deaths may appear to be the quickest solution to their problems.
Mental health awareness, is therefore crucial especially in academic institutions, as that’s where kids spend most of their time. Children, adolescents, and young adults must be provided with the necessary support to walk them through their academic and social journeys. That way, not only will they be able to effectively cope with anxiety and depression; but they will also be able to fight any unwanted thoughts about harming themselves.
What teachers should do to help students get through anxiety?
While there is a multitude of strategies that teachers can implement to increase awareness and help students cope with mental health disorders, midss.org recommends the following:
1. Create a stigma-free environment
Schools should create a safe space where students can freely talk about mental health without being judged. Rather than setting anxiety up as something students should get rid of, as a teacher, you should help students understand that stress and anxiety are part of life and that it’s unrealistic to think they will go away completely. As such, you should foster open conversations about mental health and administer lessons that help students develop coping skills.
2. Practice deep slow breaths
If a kid in your class is struggling with anxiety, consider leading the whole class in breathing exercises. Deep slow breaths supply more oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which helps restore its power and boost its performance. Sometimes just a few minutes of mindful breathing could be all you need to address mental health concerns.
3. Take students outside
Spending time in the great outdoors can help calm a stressed, anxious brain. Take a break and go out in nature. Breathe the cool air and listen to the birds chirping. Importantly, ask students to keenly observe the surroundings; it’ll help divert their attention away from what’s currently worrying them.
The Bottom Line
Poor mental health does not only affect students’ academic performance; if left unaddressed, it can affect their physical health and cause depression, which can impact their overall well-being. Luckily, by arming themselves with stress-coping strategies, teachers can help students with mental health issues to effectively slow down their anxious brains and live a happier, more enjoyable school life.