Teachers education on Mental Health
In my highly academic oriented community I began to wonder how mental health issues are addressed in the classroom. From conversations with students and peers I began to realize how much this is a issue in our community but also on a larger scale. From my data 66% of students who took my survey have experienced anxiety in the classroom, if this large majority of students are having these feelings teachers have the right skills in order to help the students. On a global scale one in eight children have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I first started with an interview with my schools head of health services, to understand the existing school protocol for mental health issues in the classroom.
Interview with Head of Health Services:
Q: Is there any protocol or training for teachers to follow when someone has a mental health issue in the classroom?
A: If there is a behavioral issue during the day the teachers are taught to call the nurses office to alert them then walk the student over to the nurses office. House parents (Adults in boarding homes) get trained every year and the nurses are on call for school 7am-8pm, they are trained by the school counselor. Students can also leave class if they feel the need but they will need to go directly to the health center and check in.
Q: How have teachers handled students with test taking anxiety in the classroom?
A: They do not, the teachers are only supposed to walk the student to the health center.
Q: If a student is not diagnosed or it is not known to the school/teacher their mental health problem what will the teacher do in a case of panic attack etc?
A: Again walk them to the health center. The teachers job is to teach the class not diagnose the student, therefore they just take the student to the health center right away.
Q:Are teachers required to take a seminar or learn about mental health? Epically in teenagers? If not do you think this would be helpful?
A: No they are not. Like I said the teachers job is to teach the students, therefore I do not think this would be helpful
Q: Are teachers trained in any way to help students during a panic attack or anxiety?
Q: Explain to me Accommodations… How much can a teacher see? How much is confidential?
A: Accommodations are only released to the school when the parents have given their full permission or when the student is eighteen. Accommodations have mental health history, diagnoses and learning differences.
Q: Do you think in this highly academic environment that students would benefit in learning techniques to decrease anxiety in general?
A: Yes Yes! We offer mindfulness classes and teach mindfulness during freshman seminar.
Q:What is the protocol for a boarder in need of a day off due to mental health?
A: Boarders need to go directly to the health center, check in and tell the nurses.
Q: What protocol would you like to see in place at CA?
A: It is very hard for boarders because they need to spend the whole days in the health center when day students can spend the day in the their own bedroom. I would like to be able to clear them for a day off, that is easier if we have a relationship.
Q: Do you think taking a day off is productive if you are not feeling good mentally?
A: Yes sometimes even two days! Sometimes at Concord Academy people think that if you are not doing something you are not being productive, so people are hesitant to take a day off but in reality you are being productive. This day off can be productive for your mental health.
Q: Do you believe in the statement that students cannot learn effectively if they are not mentally healthy?
I sent out a survey to the student body at my school and 63 students answered it, below are the results.
The other questions I asked were “How have your teachers gotten involved or the health services team? Have they helped you?”, “What would you want a teacher to do or say in the event that you felt anxious in class?”, “What would you want a teacher to do or say in the event that you had a panic attack in class”. Below are some of the responses;
“How have your teachers gotten involved or the health services team? Have they helped you?”
- “The health services team has helped. I find it hard to talk to teachers about my mental health”
- “They have not helped me. I feel supported by my advisor but I do not feel comfortable talking to any of the people in the health services team which is super unfortunate because I really could have used that support.”
- “I have a system worked out with health services where I basically just ask them for a room to sit in, and they ask me if I need to talk to someone, I tell them I am texting my therapist, and that’s kind of the end of it, no questions asked.”
- “No, when I went to the health center I felt kinda judged/looked down upon. I felt like I was being talked to in a patronizing tone and have stopped my meetings.”
- “some have offered extensions or individual help.”
- “I usually just say I have a headache and go to the health center if it’s really bad.”
- “I feel as though teachers are generally just very expressive of their genuine care to want you to succeed and are comforting in their encouragement.”
- “I have not seeked help from the health services team, but teachers have granted extensions.”
- “The health services team are god awful, they either preach meditation or just blame you for your problems depending on who you talk to. We’d be a lot better off if they hired real therapists…”
- “I’m very private about when I have panic attacks or anxiety. They don’t happen often but I get nervous to talk to teachers/health service because I feel like they will judge me — I also feel pressure from my parents to not be stressed out/be diagnosed with anything.”
- “I’ve met with one teacher outside of class to talk about it, but beyond that adults haven’t gotten involved”
“What would you want a teacher to do or say in the event that you felt anxious in class?”
- “Talk to me privately about what we can do to improve the situation.”
- “I would want a teacher to take me outside of the classroom to talk.”
- “To change a deadline to the next day or something along those lines. To understand how much stress we have in our lives.”
- “Let me go to the nurse or go home no questions asked.”
- “Allow me to have my own space and deal with the issue in a non dramatic matter such as going to the nurse.”
- “Not say anything and allow me to leave unnoticed, give me extensions for work.”
- “I would want them to talk after class.”
- “I can’t think of anything I would say because I don’t think teachers would think its a ‘real’ thing students go through.”
- “I actually don’t know. But I think it is critical that teachers are educated on this important manner.”
- “I would want the teacher to allow me to leave and get some air.”
- “That I was supported and ask me what I need to calm down.”
- “Let me leave class/go to the health center without being judged.”
- “Be calm and offer to meet outside of class and not to worry about deadlines”
- “Talk to me after class. Ask how they could help. If I just brush it off, push, because I often find it exposing and uncomfortable to accept help even if I really need it.”
- “Let me take some time to myself to calm down instead of breaking down in class.”
- “I would want them to be responsive and accommodating if I needed to leave class and/or wasn’t able to do a homework assignment or take an assessment on time.”
- “I guess open up potential slots to meet up after class to talk about how the student is feeling/what are ways that the teacher can accommodate for the student’s anxiety.”
- “Let me take some time to calm down and work with me to minimize anxiety in the future.”
- “I would want them to say that my mental health is more important than that day’s class and to understand if I need to not be there.”
- “Asked politely an discreetly if I wanted to leave”
- Not say ‘I don’t know why you get so stressed, grades don’t matter.’ Instead, talk to me about what is stressful and work on making it less so”.
“What would you want a teacher to do or say in the event that you had a panic attack in class?”
- “Take me out of the room.”
- “” *name* why don’t you go to the nurse” or just outside.”
- “I would want them to allow me to leave and not ask questions but just help me get to the health center/health services.”
- “Let me leave and take the test another time/be understanding.”
- “Ask if I need anything but mainly jus allow me to leave the classroom for a little without asking too many questions”
- “Support and help me get to the health center.”
- “Give me space and keep the class form staring at me”
- “Ask me if they could help, ask me what I need in that moment, not make a big scene, maybe escort me outside and try to help me calm down. Afterwards give me the space to do what I need to do, and then follow up about what happened and what to do about it.”
- “Not make me feel more ashamed.”
- “I think having a talk outside if it were the first time would be appropriate, but if the teacher was previously informed about an anxiety issue, an excuse to go to the health center without any explanation would be most preferable.”
My proposal is to have all the faculty attend a session about mental health lead by an out of school professional. From my survey it shows that teachers would be interested in taking a session and feel they need it. Teachers also need education on mental health because they can and should be able to support their students with mental health problems. This could help teachers better understand why certain students need to leave the classroom for a minute, take tests in a private room, take a day off or a block off, etc. The majority of the students who responded to my survey just wanted teachers to be kind, give extensions and respectful of their feelings.
My next steps are talking to the faculty of my school to see if they would be interested in learning more and attending a seminar lead by a out of school professional. I think it is highly important to get their input, not only to see the interest level but for them to shape what they want to learn more about. At this moment I can also suggest that they inform them selves about how it feels by watching Ted Talks for example.
If you have any other ideas of ways teachers could learn more about mental health comment BELOW!
Survey- My schools students
Interview- Head of Health Services Team at my school
Ted Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/eleanor_longden_the_voices_in_my_head