Advice for Teachers with Students Who Have Mental Health Problems
Head teachers report mental health issues among children are a growing problem in the classroom and are now pressing for an urgent discussion on the matter.
A recent report by the charity, Teacher Support Network, reveals nearly 90% of teaching staff have had to provide extra support for pupils with mental health issues during the past two years. From these figures around 43% reported finding it increasingly difficult to access services and adequate support for pupils with mental illness. Combine this frustrating situation, with the added pressures of Ofsted inspections, targets, exam results, growing classroom numbers – in other words, and ever-increasing workloads, then it follows some things will suffer.
As a consequence, more and more teachers find themselves with less time on their hands, and very often, simply don’t have the extra capacity needed to attend to individuals with special needs. Working under such constant pressure has a detrimental, negative and eroding effect on many teachers, especially those in the first year or so of becoming qualified.
Mental health in children is a complex subject and a widespread, growing concern among head teachers and teaching staff. Mental health issues among the young can be as a result of many different reasons, including neglect, obesity, domestic violence, pornography, or bullying in all its many forms, to the age-old problems with drugs; with many cases, heart rendering and distressing.
But whatever the origin or reason, they can all have an impact and affect a student’s daily life in many ways . . . within and beyond the school gate boundary. With the ever-increasing cuts to social services support, parents and schools are often left struggling to fill the void. So what is the advice to teachers struggling to give students the time and support they would like and worry that they may fail in doing so?
Without the right support, there is little doubt the learning process and experience will suffer, and that with the right support, the whole thing can be made so much easier: concentration levels go up, more gets done, achievements are made, and less – valuable – time is wasted through disruptions, which makes for a much better learning experience for everyone concerned.
One suggestion is that teaching staff could consider thinking of the condition more as an issue rather than a problem. However, unlike most physical problems, many mental illnesses aren’t so apparently obvious. And where a condition is not known about, it is even more difficult to help fulfil any special needs.
Managing students with mental health issues is a subject much written about. All students are young, diverse individuals, and often, each may respond in different ways in a given situation, and what works for one may not work for another. Better awareness and understanding promotes better accommodation and support when openly discussed with students, all students.
Teachers sometimes make the mistake of fussing, heaping praise at every little turn, and spend less time with the rest of the students, in the hope this will lead to easier, more productive learning, and an easier life. And this may be true in the short term, but often it doesn’t and only causes resentment among classmates. Don’t be condescending, you’ll risk losing the confidence and respect of everyone in class quite quickly. Don’t send out the wrong message.