Teachers’ Day: How teachers can support children’s mental health

Children may not have to think about earning money or do household chores. But they also experience things that might affect their mental heath. And teachers play a role in promoting mental health. On Teachers' Day, let's find out how educators can support children's mental health.
Teacher's role in supporting mental health of students
A teacher can supporting mental health of students effectively. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 5 Sep 2023, 08:59 am IST
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Children have tests and exams to worry about and sometimes bullying by fellow students. Some children also don’t have supportive parents. All this has a major impact on their mental health. According to Unicef, in 2019, it was estimated that at least one in seven adolescents have mental disorders. That comes down to about 166 million adolescent girls and boys across the globe. Teachers play an important role in mental health of children. On Teachers’ Day, we tell you how educators can help children.

Signs of mental health issues in children

Children spend a lot of time in school. This makes it possible for teachers to identify some signs of mental health issues in students.

children's mental health
Teachers can support children’s mental health. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

1. Behavioural changes

If children are having mental health issues, there will be sudden shifts in their behaviour. You will notice changes like withdrawal, aggression or extreme mood swings, says Dr Rahul Rai Kakkar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram.

2. Academic decline

There will be noticeable drops in their academic performance if they any mental illness or problem. Apart from academics, they will also lose interest in school-related activities.

3. Social isolation

Teachers will be able to see a significant reduction in students’ interactions with their peers and a reluctance to participate in any kind of group activities organised in school.

4. Emotional changes

Children who are battling a mental health issue will have frequent expressions of sadness, fear, anger or emotional distress that is beyond what’s typical for their age.

5. Physical complaints

They will also frequently complain about headaches, stomach aches or other physical discomfort. But there won’t be any clear medical cause behind these health problems.

What to do as a teacher if you notice signs of mental health issues?

1. Document observations

Just like you keep notebooks of students to check their homework, keep detailed records of the observed behaviours and incidents. Then share those records with school counselors or the children’s parents.

Playful child
Teachers must communicate well with children. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

2. Communicate

As a teacher, you might want to take things in your hands. But instead of going solo, reach out to the school counselor, parents and other relevant staff members to discuss concerns and develop a plan that will help the children.

3. Maintain confidentiality

Share information about a child’s problems only with concerned people instead of telling everyone in the staff room. You should respect the student’s privacy and handle the information discreetly and sensitively.

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Ways in which teachers can support children’s mental health

While you work together only with the school’s support team to devise strategies that can help the student address their challenges, offer a listening ear. You can also offer a supportive environment for the student, letting them know they’re not alone, suggests Dr Kakkar. You can also do the following:

1. Foster a positive environment

Create a welcoming classroom where students feel safe and valued. This will help to promote a positive atmosphere for mental well-being of students.

2. Build relationships

A teacher-student relationship is very important as educators help in the development of children. So, form strong teacher-student relationships. This will encourage open communication and trust, and if children are facing any problem they will come to you for help.

3. Encourage expression

Provide opportunities for students to express their thoughts and emotions through discussions, art or writing.

4. Teach coping skills

In school, you can introduce techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness and problem-solving to help children manage stress and emotions. These techniques are great for adults and can work wonders for children too.

5. Set realistic expectations

It is good to have expectations, but let them be realistic ones. Establish achievable goals so that there is no excessive academic pressure on children. This will also help to reduce anxiety, says the expert.

6. Promote social skills

Teaching is not just about telling students to open their books and go to chapter 1, paragraph 5 and line 2. You can also teach teamwork, empathy, and conflict resolution to enhance interpersonal relationships.

7. Recognise efforts

It might be doing well in a class test or extracurricular activities, but you should acknowledge and praise students’ efforts and achievements to boost their self-esteem.

8. Provide routine and structure

Adults have a routine that they follow in their daily lives, and so should children. Maintain a consistent schedule for them to create a sense of stability and predictability.

9. Offer support services

You can connect students with school counselors or mental health professionals whenever you think it’s needed. Students might refuse to meet them, but asa teacher you can convince them.

10. Educate about mental health

Educators can raise awareness about mental health in school. They can integrate discussions about mental health into the curriculum to reduce stigma around mental health.

But remember, while teachers can play a crucial role, mental health concerns should also be addressed by mental health professionals and parents.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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