Mental Health is increasingly becoming a significant issue among adolescents, and is further becoming heightened due to the pressure resulting from the environment surrounding schools and academics.
“1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable emotional, behavioural, or mental health disorder” as well as “1 in 10 youth have a mental health challenge severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community. Many estimates show that even though mental illness affects so many of our kids aged 6-17, at least one-half, and many estimate as many as 80% of them, do not receive the mental health care they need.” In addition, youth suffering from a diagnosed mental health disorder have the poorest graduation rate of all students with disabilities.
Mental Health Disorders affect classroom learning and social interactions, both of which are vital to the success of students, due to the fast-paced and high-pressure conditions that the education system surrounds them with. In many cases, a student’s fear of embarrassment, answering incorrectly, or needing to interact with others, may lead them to them to avoid all group and social activities, and perhaps school, all-together. Students become so preoccupied with their afflictions regarding anxiety and depression, that rather than focusing on and completing school assignments, their attentions are focused elsewhere.
Along with an inability to focus in the classroom, many battling anxiety and depression tend to also struggle with the following:
- Inability to screen out environmental stimuli
- Lack of stamina
- Difficulty handling time pressures and multiple tasks
- Difficulty handling negative feedback
- Difficulty responding to change
The vast majority of students suffering from various mental health conditions feel a disconnect from their teachers, and are therefore uncomfortable reaching out, and relying on them for help concerning these issues. Many do not believe that the majority of teachers and administrators fully understand the extent to which these conditions can be exceptionally debilitating in numerous aspects of their life, or even care.
To address and improve these conditions within the education system, implementing a mental health program for teachers to gain a greater understanding of these conditions, and to learn how to best address them, is crucial. All these consequences surrounding the debilitating effect that mental health has upon students, are simply the tip of the iceberg.
We believe that in order to solve this successfully and efficiently, a mandatory mental health training program for all pre-service teachers to engage in is the best solution, to leave them better equipped to understand and manage the problems that a great deal of their students are facing today.
“The Mental Health Guide” is an excellent resource that we have extensively researched, and although this has been released, it is not yet mandatory for teachers to take and complete.
Dr. Stan Kutcher, Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health and Professor in the Department of Mental Health at Dalhousie, will be conducting an online mental health literacy curriculum for pre-service teachers at UBC, Western University, St. Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University. Although this is an incredible step in the right direction, it should be implemented throughout all universities.
We believe that training pre-service teachers in how to identify, assist, and support their students will create a remarkable change in the overall levels of contentment and success among students, and studies support this too. Therefore, our goal is to make this course mandatory for all pre-service teachers, as well as to encourage teachers that have already completed their degree to undergo the training.