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Why K-12 Schools Should Take Student Mental Health Seriously

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

Mental health awareness is a topic being discussed more often, and it’s a conversation many need to have. Mental health conditions are becoming more prominent in students around the teenage and adolescent ages, with many experiencing this onset by the age of 14.

Student Mental Health - Student Taking ExamThe National Alliance on Mental Health shares startling statistics, such as one in five youths currently live with a mental health condition, and less than half of these individuals do not receive any services for their condition. “Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental health conditions can affect a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop.”

K-12 schools are the place the majority of young people spend their days. It’s extremely important that school teachers and administrators educate themselves on student mental health and make sure their students are getting the help they need.  NAMI explains school personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs in students who are experiencing an emerging mental health condition. Once identified, students should be connected with effective services and support.

Common Student Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders come in many shapes and sizes, and students begin to battle these issues at a young age.  Many mental health disorders impact everyday life, making it difficult for students to focus entirely on schoolwork. Some of the common mental disorders are listed below, with the help from Teen Mental Health.

  • Anxiety disorders are classified as disturbances in brain mechanisms that are designed to protect a person from harm. Below are the types of anxiety disorders:
    • General Anxiety Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • Specific Phobias
  • Mood disorders are classified as disturbances in usual mood states. Below are a two common mood disorders:
    • Major Depressive Disorder, or commonly referred to as Clinical Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Personality disorders are classified as maladaptive personal characteristics. Below are several personality disorders:
    • Eccentric: Paranoid, Schizoid, Schizotypal
    • Dramatic/Emotional: Antisocial, Narcissistic
    • Fear Related: Avoidant, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
  • Eating disorders are classified as disturbances of weight and feeding behavior. A few eating disorders to look out for include:
    • Anorexia Nervosa
    • Bulimia Nervosa
    • Binge Eating Disorder
  • There are many more mental health disorders listed by Teen Mental Health. Click here for more.

Understanding the Impact of Student Mental Health

As the first line of defense, educators must understand the importance of student mental health, and the impact it has on young people. Unfortunately, when a young adult is faced with a mental health disorder, they often don’t address or treat it until a later age. Student mental health disorders correlate with low achievement, disruptive behavior, chronic absenteeism, and even dropping out of school altogether.

As the first signs of a mental health disorder usually present themselves around the age of 14, teachers who interact with students this age should begin to keep an eye out for any behavior that appears to signify mental illness so that they’re able to get the help they need.

How to Spot & Address Student Mental Health Concerns

There are a few indicators to look out for when considering student mental health. If you see a student withdrawing, being unsocial, lacking self-confidence, or acting out of character, they may need help.

Nancy Barile, an award-winning teacher, started to notice that one of her students was not herself. She explains this student was always punctual when it came to classes and homework, was meticulous with her appearance and was always friendly. When Nancy noticed she no longer tried with her school work, was showing up to school disheveled and wearing the same clothes, and was uncharacteristically withdrawn, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Luckily there were mental health experts ready to help. Nancy explains, “They discovered that (this student) was depressed and suicidal, and she needed an immediate psychiatric intervention. She was hospitalized for a period of time, but she was able to return to my classroom a few months later. With the help of medication and therapy, she managed to graduate with her class.”

This is an important example of how teachers and administrators can spot a problem and effectively address a student’s mental health concern.

Having open communication and informative conversations about these tough subjects is extremely important, as it could save a student’s life. 

Alert Solutions works with many K-12 districts and schools across the country, all of which should be aware of the importance of student mental health. Sharing information internally and externally with students, teachers and parents will help keep everybody informed and engaged in the topic of student mental health awareness. This can easily be done through blogging, social media, and with a school notification platform such as SwiftK12.

Interested in learning more about SwiftK12? Download our brochure below.

 SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, school culture, school climate

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