School days are the most cherished years of an individual’s life and lay the foundation for their entire life. The time spent there not only defines the character, behavior of an individual but often sets the course for the rest of his/her life.
While childhood is believed to be the most relaxed stage of one’s life and is supposed to be free from all the stresses that come with adulthood, it is amazing to note the increase in the number of mental health issues that are being reported during adolescence as well as childhood years.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 1 in 5 youth in the age group of 13 and 18 years, that is nearly 21.4 percent of the population, experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged between eight and 15, the estimate is 13 percent.
Therefore, it is important for mental health institutions, government bodies as well as parents to take some steps to help youngsters become aware and deal effectively with their mental health issues. Schools, too, can contribute a lot in helping children avoid developing such issues and/or if need be, deal with them in a smart way.
Schools play a pivotal role
Considering the fact that 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders begin by the age of 14, schools need to come forward to help curb this rising epidemic. Some simple ways in which schools can help are mentioned below:
1. Give equal priority to kids’ mental health
It is well-known that schools place a high priority on literacy. This, in turn, leaves little scope for teachers and other staff to concentrate on the mental health of the children.
It is important for the schools and other educational institutions to understand that encouraging sound mental health is as important as making children capable of reading and writing. School administration must acknowledge the fact that their institute is the best place to introduce any change in a child’s life as he/she is the one who would become an active member of the society later on. Empowering a child at this stage would enable him/her to manage his/her emotions better and ensure his/her well-being throughout life.
2. Employing a trained mental health counselor
While this one is the most ignored position in a school due to various reasons, including financial, hiring a trained and experienced mental health counselor can be really beneficial for promoting children’s mental health.
Providing children with counseling at school is a cost-effective way to improve the mental and emotional health of children. Attending counseling sessions can help boost a child’s self-confidence as well as make him/her better-equipped to handle any emotional situation.
3. Training teachers to identify issues in kids
At school, teachers are the ones who spend the maximum time with children. Therefore, they are the best source to gather any information related to them and can easily monitor their health and well-being.
Since there is an increasing number of children getting affected by various mental health conditions, training teachers to identify mental health issues in children is important. This can enable an early diagnosis of conditions, such as post-traumatic stress in children, and thus, make effective treatment available.
4. Forming mental health improvement clusters
Forming mental health improvement clusters in schools can serve as a great idea to help children deal with mental health issues. These clusters can be operated based on the funding collected specifically for this purpose. Further, having these clusters within the school premises can enable easy identification of mental health issues and also provide one with effective mental health services.
5. Training mental health professionals at school
As various studies have pointed to the increase in the number of cases of mental illnesses in children, it is important for schools to invest a little in the training of their own mental health professionals. This will enable easy availability of mental health support to children.
Moreover, training the mental health staff also makes it easier to offer the right kind of support to children who have had adverse experiences in their childhood. The impact of childhood trauma such as abuse, neglect or bereavement can be too overwhelming for a child to deal with on his/her own and can lead to complications later in life. Therefore, proper support can go a long way in ensuring a healthy life.
6. Supporting children of mentally ill parents
Children who have parents dealing with some or other form of mental illness are in need of special care and attention. This is because they spend the majority of their day caring for their parents and providing them support.
Offering them the right kind of help can act as a great way to improve their mental health and help them lead a healthy life. Along with this, providing these children with support can also curb the increasing number of suicide cases in the country. According to the National Alliance on Metal Illness (NAMI), suicide is the third leading cause of death in people aged between 10 and 24 years in the U.S.
7. Strengthening connection between children and school
It is important to strengthen the bond between children and school. This can be done by creating a child-friendly environment in school where he/she feels free to interact with others. The child should be comfortable and at ease in a school environment. He/she should be able to trust and have confidence in his/her teachers and other people at the school.
On the other hand, forming an environment that’s not conducive to the child can, instead, ruin the child’s mental health condition.
Giving families equal say in child’s mental health care
Offering children enough opportunities to relax and have fun is a great idea to boost their mental health. This can easily be done by schools. It is also important that families have an important and equal say in their child’s school to ensure that he/she gets the right support and treatment.
If a parent, teacher or anybody else associated with a child observes any symptoms of mental illness in a child, it is best to consult a mental health expert immediately. One can also opt to send their child to one of the best therapeutic boarding schools for teens in Utah – the White River Academy.
If you know someone who is dealing with any form of mental illness and wants to seek help from one of the best boarding schools for troubled teens, we can help. Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to get information on and connect with some of the best therapeutic residential schools in Utah.