Teachers are not just educators. Although that might be their main function, the truth is that they are spending a lot of time with their students, and it’s crucial that they can help those students with their mental health where needed. There are many reasons why someone might start to struggle with their mental health, developing depression, anxiety, stress, and other issues.
A good teacher will not only understand that this can happen, but they will also be able to help as much as possible. They won’t be able to ‘cure’ the problem necessarily, but they can often lessen the symptoms and ensure that the student seeks professional help where needed.
A good teacher will want to be able to do this, but it can be hard to know how to handle such a situation. Here are some useful tips to help you know what you can do to best help your students – no matter what age they might be – with their mental health.
Take Care Of Yourself
Unless you are as healthy as you can be in terms of your own mental health (and physical health to some extent), it’s going to be difficult and perhaps even impossible to help any of your students with their issues. They say you can’t pour from an empty cup, and this is exactly that situation; unless you are healthy and are taking care of your mental health, you simply won’t be able to help anyone else.
Not only will you be healthier in general and better equipped to provide the advice and expertise needed, but you will also be more likely to spot any issues that are occurring when you can empathize with any student in your class. Plus, of course, if you have been able to manage your own symptoms, you’ll be able to offer excellent advice to the children regarding theirs.
In order to take care of your own mental health, you might want to take up relaxing therapies such as Pilates and yoga or meditation. Any kind of hobby will be good for you, in fact.
Talk To The Children
One of the best things for anyone with a mental health condition to do is to talk about their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Talking things through can help to put things in perspective and to ensure that the right help is given to those who need it. Even if nothing can be done, the act of sharing the problem can make things feel less worrying.
This is why it’s crucial that you let your students know they can talk to you about anything, and you’ll be there to listen to them. A lot of the time, your students will feel more comfortable talking to their teacher than to friends and family members, so you are in the ideal position to hear them out. Even giving advice isn’t strictly necessary in some cases; all it takes is a shoulder to cry on and someone to talk to.
If you can offer this, there will be a big shift in mental health concerns, and more students will feel happy to talk to you and their other teachers about what’s troubling them. You may need to be aware of any changes in behavior in order to offer the advice that will be required, so pay attention to how everyone is in the classroom.
Be Ready To Provide Extra Support
Although it might seem somewhat cynical, it might be best if you assume that everyone needs some kind of mental health help. In this way, you can be entirely ready to offer the extra support that will often be necessary when it comes to helping people feel better.
As we’ve mentioned above, those children who have behavioral problems, whether they are deed-seated or have just started, will need to be assessed and watched. Any behavioral changes, or perhaps an inability to focus on lessons, could be down to mental health problems.
Disciplinary action may not be the right thing – they might not be being ‘naughty’ for the sake of it; it could be a health problem they are struggling with. You won’t be able to persuade everyone to talk to you or address their feelings, but you need to be prepared for those who do want to do that and be ready to help when required.
The role of a teacher is changing all the time. In the past, they taught lessons, but today they are needed to do so much more and fill so many additional roles, including that of a counselor when necessary. This is why it could be wise to go back to school and learn more modern-day teaching skills, especially if you have been teaching for a long time. A masters in education distance learning programme will not disrupt your day-to-day life but will offer you the chance to update your skills and learn more about what teaching is like today.
When you consider everything that has happened over the last 18 months or so and how disrupted children’s education has been, it’s no wonder that many are finding it a mental health struggle to return to at least some form of normalcy. By learning extra skills, including how to help your students with this and other issues, you can be the teacher they need and the one that will help them the most.
Offer Structure And Routine
The world is an uncertain place, and that kind of stress and worry can cause all kinds of mental health issues. Because of this, your role as a teacher must include plenty of structure and routine. This can help children settle and be more focused and happier at school, which will then help them in other areas of life as well.
A school is a place with strict rules and plenty of routines, so as a teacher, you need to help your students stick to those rules and that routine. The school timetable will help greatly here, but you can also ensure that your particular class is very structured. Of course, there is time for spontaneity, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t always the best way to learn.