For This Back to School Season 2022, Let’s Not Forget Our Student’s Mental Health

The new school year recently started. Students all over the world are physically heading back to school.  Many have been looking forward to starting classes in person since many schools were still conducting lessons remotely previously. They must have missed their friends, for instance having lunch together and getting to play outside during PE. 

Those in boarding school might be moving into dorms while others wait for the school bus on the first day of class. Due to this sense of (pre-covid) normalcy, some kids might be suffering from anxiety about having to physically attend classes and interact with other people daily. They may be worried about catching covid, not knowing how to interact with friends, and extroverts suddenly becoming introverts after a long period of isolation.

Whatever the struggles these children are facing, it is important that teachers pay close attention to their student’s physical and mental well-being. While the pandemic caused widespread disruption to learning, one of the biggest concerns, for students of all ages, has been how it has affected their mental health. High numbers of teenagers have reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless, and it is now best to make student mental health a priority. Prevention is ultimately better than cure.

How to Monitor Student’s Mental Health in School

1. Asking students how they are feeling

It is important to communicate with your students. Asking them questions like how they are feeling encourages them to open up and share their feelings with you. Practice empathy and allow students to truly express themselves by being a good listener and not cutting them halfway during their speech. Hold a safe space. Ask even the hard questions, in case they shy aware from disclosing their struggles. Provide reassurance that it is perfectly fine to share details with you and that you will keep their “secrets” safe and not tell others unless need be. Gain their trust so you are able to truly understand their mental state and decide whether they need professional medical help.  

2. Being proactive

If students come to you to open up on a certain topic, that’s fantastic! You have successfully gained the student’s trust to let you know things. However, the tricky part is with quieter students who do not talk about their feelings or express what’s going on in their lives. It gets hard to identify whether the student is ok or just hiding away their pain. The key is to be proactive! Regularly ask them how they are doing, without being creepy or causing them to be uncomfortable of course. Let them know you care, and that you just want to help. 

3. Watch out for a change in behavior

On bad days, even the most cheerful kid can get gloomy and look sad. Pay close attention to their behavior and whether it differs from their normal behavior. If the student is usually quiet, then this approach might not work to check whether they are doing ok. The more obvious ones are usually among the louder students who suddenly turn quiet. Maybe they no longer mingle with their friends, spend their lunchtime alone, or are even frequently absent from school. 

Symptoms to Look Out For

  1. Fatigue
  2. Losing interest in things they once loved
  3. Avoiding food
  4. Isolation
  5. Loss of self-esteem
  6. Strong shifts in personality

How to Encourage Students to Prioritize Their Mental Health

There are many ways teachers can help encourage students to prioritize their mental health. Firstly is by making sure they are able to express their feelings and concerns. Students should be given the option to schedule counseling sessions with school counselors or even talk to any teacher they trust. In order for students to open up, it is vital that teachers create a safe space for students so that they are more comfortable voicing out. Let them know that they are not alone in their battles, and teachers will help them address their worries or sorrows. Lend an ear, a shoulder even for them to cry on.  

Other initiatives include teaching them ways to manage and reduce their stress. This could casually be done with classes from time to time or the school can also organize talks or workshops in fun activities to highlight stress management. Most likely than not, students already know this. Most of us do. Getting enough sleep, eating whole foods that are more nutritious instead of junk, and exercising to release happy hormones like endorphins. It’s not that we do not know it, most of the time we just need it reiterated to us.

This a reminder, to take good care of our physical and mental health. As for the younger students, this is the chance to educate them on the importance of self-care (which does not necessarily mean a bubble bath and lighting up scented candles). The internet has changed the “meaning” of self-care for some but that is a discussion for another day.  If it piques your interest, do read up on our top 4 tips on how teachers can build realistic optimism this year. 

Importance of Monitoring Student’s Mental Health 

It is important for teachers to monitor their student’s mental health since they spend at least six to seven hours a day, five times a week at school. If they were going through a rough time and have issues outside of school, this should be able to be observed from their behavior in the classroom. By monitoring their mental health, we are able to supply them with more help if need be. Perhaps therapy sessions, or medications depending on the circumstances of each individual case. 

This is an opportunity to take charge of the situation before it worsens and interrupts their studies and everyday life. Ensuring students are mentally healthy to gain new knowledge in the classroom as well as maintain or improve their performance is also why monitoring their mental health is necessary. Despite that, monitoring their well-being can also provide a more healthy learning environment without unnecessary conflicts and stress and ultimately allow students to learn better and gain from lessons with an open heart and mind. If you are struggling with collaboration overload, check out why you could be struggling and how to overcome it.

We hope these tips are helpful for teachers this new school year. If you have any other tips you would like to share, leave them in the comments!

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