At a time when mental health has become a vitally important issue in society, it is essential to recognize its relevance in the educational context. Mental health in schools is not a passing issue or a temporary trend, but a fundamental aspect that requires serious attention and deep understanding.
Through the valuable information shared by Pilar Sanz, educational psychologist, for the fourth season of the series Strengthening Socioemotional Skills, this topic is further addressed. Below, we share the most relevant points of this resource of the Educational Quality Program of the Wiese Foundation.
It’s important to foster a community aware of mental health
In an environment where uncertainty and pressures can affect anyone, it is of utmost importance that schools become spaces for promotion and education around mental health care.
Although the conversation about mental health in schools has advanced in recent times, there are still challenges in identifying when and how to seek help. Because of this, it is essential to foster an environment in which talking about mental health is as natural as any other everyday conversation.
Also, a fundamental point that we must understand is that the responsibility of promoting mental health in schools does not fall solely in the hands of psychologists and psychiatrists; but, rather, all members of the educational community, from educators to students and administrators, play an essential role in building a mentally and emotionally healthy environment. Recognizing this collective responsibility is the first step in establishing a solid foundation on which mental well-being can flourish.
Advice for generating moments to talk about mental health in the classroom
Open and honest communication about mental health in the classrooms is the path to mutual understanding and support. To achieve this, it is vital that we can:
Generating moments for dialogue
In which we can foster openness to talk about topics such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks, among others. Addressing these issues in a direct and friendly manner dismantles taboos and creates an environment in which both students and educators feel comfortable sharing their experiences.
Misinformation and prejudice still persist regarding mental health. Identifying and challenging these prejudices, on the part of both teachers and students, is essential to changing the misperceptions surrounding these issues.
Using respectful language
The way we talk about mental health is of great importance. In this context, avoiding the use of disqualifying or insulting terms is fundamental to maintain a respectful environment. Our words have the power to shape perception and the attitude toward these issues.
An example of how to approach mental health: a case of self-harm
To illustrate the importance of a practical approach to mental health care in schools, let us consider a case of self-harm. If, as an educator, you notice changes in a student’s behavior, such as overwhelm, anxiety or isolation, or even physical injuries, it is crucial to approach the subject with empathy and delicately.
It is essential to focus on the student’s well-being before the diagnosis and to work collaboratively with the family to provide the necessary support. In addition, prevention plays a key role. Discussing these topics in the classroom and in tutoring venues is helpful to make students feel safe to seek and offer help.
Coping with mental health in schools can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Sharing knowledge and experiences with colleagues and other members of the education community can generate a strong support network. Together, we can transform the school into an environment committed to everyone’s mental well-being.
If you want to delve deeper into this important topic and access more resources, we invite you to see the chapter “Importance of mental health care at school”, available as part of Season 4 of the series “Strengthening Socioemotional Skills”. We also encourage you to explore the Wiese Foundation’s Educational Quality program, through which our organization seeks to contribute to the improvement of the emotional and cognitive climate with the aim of improving the teaching and learning processes.
See the full chapter here
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