In the past 5 years, I’ve heard more and more about student mental health as cases of anxiety, depression and suicide ideation. Now, five years ago, I started my new career as an administrator and being aware of what is happening in schools at an admin level is far greater than what I knew as a teacher (more on that in future posts). However, students cannot learn when they are dealing with illness of any kind. It is a struggle to concentrate on what a student could think of as meaningless mathematics when they are in constant pain, wondering where or when they will see the doctor. And this is when their illness is obvious, like a broken leg, arm or a disease that is more understood by society, like cancer or diabetes.
But what happens when the disease is less understood and hidden from view? We can’t always see the pain or the effects of the disease when it involves the mind. And some learn to cope and manage by hiding their illness from their peers, family and medical professionals. Many turn to self-medication to manage their illness. However, we are not alone; we are a community. As such, we need to all work together to help recognize the symptoms of illness and then find supports within the community to help manage and hopefully cure the disease. There are many programmes that different schools and communities use. I believe that all of them, no matter how they are marketed or sold to the public or institutions, must involve the whole community to deal with the whole child: a holistic approach that involves all of us.
Mental health strategies (whatever they are) should be in all schools at all levels: we don’t wait to teach our children to buckle up until they are mentally capable of understanding how a combustible engine works.
I’ve been learning in my district with the ERASE bullying/VTRA level training and find that this community approach, for all ages, works only as well when all partners are connected with the process. Another post, perhaps I’ll rant about the different levels of support from outside agencies.
If you are reading this on October 18th, check out the #BCEdChat tonight at 7:00 pm PST to chat further about Student Mental Health.