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Mental Health in the Classroom

Of course, we all want teachers to know how to explain basic math, geography and English skills to our children. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could also offer up some wisdom on what common psychiatric disorders consist of, and how kids can better educate themselves on how to deal with them? Both in themselves and in their classmates?

I went through school without ever once hearing the words mental illness uttered by a teacher. Albeit, this was many years ago, but from what I understand, not much has changed.

Two Days is All It Takes

I am not aware of exactly what it takes to become a teacher but I can imagine that there is not
much course material on mental illnesses and how they present themselves in children. And with the rampant nature of mental illness in the young, specifically attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and eating disorders, I think it’s time that it becomes part of the teacher curriculum.

Teachers are the one non-parent person that has daily involvement with a child. If our teachers were better prepared to identify symptoms of mental illness, treatment could begin earlier and in theory, would be much more successful. I’m definitely not suggesting that all teachers acquire a degree in psychology but even a two day course on mental illnesses and their causes, treatments and symptoms, could go a long way.

Making Fantasy a Reality

I know I’m living in a fantasy world with this next suggestion, but stranger things have happened. Wouldn’t it be great if every child from grade 4 onward received at least one day of instruction per year on mental illness? It doesn’t take much. One day of instruction by a qualified professional could lessen the stigma for children battling a mental illness.

It’s hard enough as an adult to admit that you have a mental illness. Imagine just how difficult it would be for a child. But if we can begin to normalize mental illness from an earlier age, we can accomplish a great deal in the realm of mental health stigma.

The key to lessening stigma, in any situation, is education. The earlier we start, the better chance we have of eradicating the shame associated with mental illness for the next generation.

If You Work in Education, Speak Up

If you work in the school system, bring this issue up to the principal or the school board.

Remember that according to philosopher Edmund Burke ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’

Kids being chastised, bullied and teased for their mental health conditions is, at least in my books, the very definition of evil.

The Completely in Blue website is here. Chris is also on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

6 thoughts on “Mental Health in the Classroom”

  1. By me as clinical psychiatrist for many years ago, the principal cause of stigma on mental illnesses is ignorance on real nature of these “damned diseases”. For this reason, people require and find out any simple and unpainful way to overcome the hard burden to this challenged question, by demoniac interpretation. Meanwhile, the issue becomes more complicated and overloaded with many misundesrtanding views and misconception options on mental pathology. In consequences, these worldwide paradigm consist the whole socio-cultural impediments that compromise the satisfying work-out of current psychiatric treatment. The defect is systematic and very resistant to any hopeful engagement against stigma on psychiatric entities. Generally, educational curricula are fulfilled with unimportant life deeds, but in any educational curriculum didn’t any class on basic mental health welfare. This statement isn’t tolerable, in the decade of mental illnesses, such is present one. Repercussions from this indolent standpoint on mental health are catastrophic ones: daily interpersonal conflict, uncontrolled violence,numerous murdering, civil wars… For this disaster the main responsible factor is our disorder mental state. This axiom should to know everyone, particularly the child and the young people, whose are the future of our healthy mind.

  2. I thought you were going to mention the value of in-school learning about mental illnesses for children with mentally ill parents and/or siblings as well. Teaching about mental health issues is a good idea even if it just opens a discussion; children can feel and become so isolated because of a parent’s or sibling’s or their own illness. Teachers can also be a first-alert system for students: Twice in my life, as a student and a parent, an elementary school teacher has taken note of symptoms (of depression) that were not obvious to family — and their actions resulted in the child getting help that may have saved a life.
    I also want to point out that NAMI has a program called “In Our Own Voice (IOOV)” that sends two speakers to talk about their personal experiences with mental illness and give general information and ideas on how to get help, and one of the audiences they aim to reach is high school students. Teenagers tend to listen more readily to their peers and their personal stories than to adults, so this program is very valuable in “educating” students about mental illness. It also avoids the risk teachers take in teaching about MI — they often catch a lot of flak from parents and community members who don’t want them talking about “personal” issues like sexuality, mental health, drug use, crime, etc.
    Thanks for bringing this up!

  3. Thanks for the comment Cindy. The fact that we are at least talking about substance abuse in schools makes me believe that someday mental health will be discussed openly as well. Thank you for the inside insight from a teachers perspective.

  4. Hi Chris! I am an unemployed teacher at the moment, and very little coursework is given on mental illnesses in university teaching programs. You might hear a little bit about ADHD, the only ones who get more are special ed teaching students, and even that doesn’t prepare you for what goes on in the classroom.
    I’d love to see mental health information given to teachers during in-service training. I agree with you that it would help destigmatize having a mental illness. I also believe it would be great to have a professional put lesson plans in place for students over a 2-3 day period depending on age and class size.
    We have a program called DARE, that gives students information on how to avoid drug abuse, how to say no, and the kinds of drugs that are out there, and more info. It is taught by specially trained police officers.
    It would be great if mental health program could be brought to schools, but you are right, it may only be a dream.

  5. A very good idea! I also believe that instilling positive esteem and image is mandatory. Not everyone can be a ‘top’ student, popular, or have access to those ‘things’ money can buy. Neither are we all genetically ‘well’-created (good looks, body structure) yet this does not mean a person cannot positively contribute or is, in any way, ‘lesser’. With a healthy knowledge of all attributes, one can grow and strive to become the best they can be. This also goes a long way to overcoming the ‘bullying’ which, unfortunately, is met in many places and in many forms.

    1. Thank you for your insight Hilary. Self esteem is definitely a major component of proper integration, and one that I feel we may neglect a tad. Thanks for the comment!

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