As teachers spend so much time with our children, they are often the first to notice when a child develops a mental disorder. Teachers can do a great deal to prepare themselves for this most important task. There is no one face of mental health in a classroom.
Mental health problems among elementary and high school students are much more common than is believed. No classroom is immune to these issues and behind each child with a problem, there is a family that is often frustrated, confused, misjudged and yearning for all the help they can get. Teachers are the first to notice, and can be involved IF they choose to be. They see the same students day after day, so are in the unique position to notice the first sign of change in a student’s academic, social and emotional development. But, teachers have to be trained first.
There is no profile of a mentally ill person.
Some children with mental health problems can be disruptive; others may be able to hide their symptoms. Some excel in the mainstream curriculum while others might need additional support or alternative pathways to help them learn. There are students who might require treatment yet others might not have a diagnosable problem but might need to help in order to learn to navigate mental health issues. Some students are represented by their empty seats in class.
Someone once said:
‘IF YOU CAN GET IT RIGHT FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE, YOU WILL USUALLY GET IT RIGHT FOR ALL THE OTHERS.’