Students come to school to learn and excel in a variety of subject areas. These skills are foundational and needed to prepare them for future grade levels, college and the workforce. However, it’s also important for schools develop a safe space for students to learn how to cope emotionally. Growing up inherently leads young people to experience stress, depression, and confusion. These can come from interactions with peers, family life, expectations, social media, and life events that can be difficult to process. Teachers should find ways to identify students in need of coping and give them the skills to be able to navigate emotional terrain they may discover.
Mental health is a subject area that affects children as much as adults. Teachers can create an environment where students are prepared to cope by encouraging students to share their feelings and offering a safe place to discuss things that may be bothering them.
Teachers can also eliminate the stigma of difficult topics by having open conversations about what it means to have anxiety, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts. These issues can be taken on by speaking with a counselor at school or continuing the conversation at home with parents, or outside of the school and family with a mental health professional. Educating students on suicide prevention and coping skills will create a stronger, safer, and more open learning community.
Preventive care teaches students how to cope with emotional hardships. Teachers can identify triggering events in the news and media, reflect on conflicts between students at school, or encourage students to reflect on why they aren’t feeling good to shine a light on the early signs of potential issues.
Learning to cope with hardships requires the right tools. Schools can be one place where children gain those tools. Teachers should discuss with administration various ways to bring in the appropriate specialists to better equip teachers to be able to lead students in the quest to improve mental health.