We’re living in a world of ever-increasing mental health cases, but we’re also seeing a similarly rapid rise in mental health awareness as well. We’re living in a time where young people are 50% more likely to have problems with their mental health, but also have access to a much wider pool of information to help them. Teacher’s jobs aren’t just about academic education, but supporting young people’s wellbeing, so they need to know what information is out there and how to support youth mental health.
A rise in student mental ill health
Here’s where we’re at:
- 1 in 6 children aged 5 – 16 are likely to have a mental health problem.
- Research shows that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% are established by 24.
- From 2017 to 2021, 2% of 6 to 16-year-olds have experienced deterioration in mental health, while 21.8% have seen improvement.
- Young people in the UK are dealing with high levels of stress. This is largely due to pressure to succeed, body image and exams.
- There were 349,449 under-18s in touch with NHS child and adolescent psychiatric teams at the end of October 2021, the highest number on record.
- 46% of young people aged 16 – 25 feel that social media makes their lives seem ‘inadequate’ compared to others online.
Signs of mental ill health
It’s difficult knowing where and when to intervene, especially when it comes to mental health. At the same time as a rise in cases and diagnoses, more and more training is becoming available with increasing outlets of information, making our teaching job that little bit easier.
One of the key signs of someone struggling with their mental health is changes in behaviours. These can be easier to notice, however they’re all the more difficult to confront and gauge reactions to your interventions.
Changes to look out for include (but not limited to):
- Low self-esteem – this can be through negative comments about the way they look or their working ability.
- Lack of sleep – lines around the eyes or excessive yawning are typical signs.
- Frequent absence – This is more noticeable depending on the child’s attendance prior.
- Sudden irritability or anger over minor issues.
How teachers can support students with mental health
As with the list of mental health problems, there are a myriad of possible ways we can assist the young people in our care. Schools should have a policy and guidance on dealing with mental health issues, and most have some specialists within the school.
The main way we can help is by being a listening ear. Making time for the student to tell you their problems can be the biggest help in getting to the route of the issue. It will indicate whether additional resources are needed, or whether a chat with a friendly face is all that’s needed.
Maintaining your own mental health is key as well. To be able to help your students, your mental health and wellbeing needs to be taken care of as well. While you have your support network of fellow teachers and support staff, charities such as Education Support are available to talk about your needs too.
Advice and resources on mental health
You’re not expected to be mental health specialists, but you do play a key role in guiding students to getting further support if they need it. It’s important to understand the different specialist help that are available locally and nationally, and the ways in which you can publicise these within your education setting. By making this information available, you can make sure that pupils, staff, parents, and carers know how to access the services they need.
One of the best outlets for aid is the NHS service CAMHS. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is able to assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties, as well as support with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and violence, to name but a few. Having school approved information on display, with posters and leaflets readily available can be one of the best ways to let students access the information they need.
Here’s our list of top sources for information on mental health.
Check out the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, which has a great database of guidance and materials for schools, such as their 5 steps to mental health and wellbeing and information on signposting.
Looking for some great info on CAMHS? Mind has you covered with their details pages on CAMHS and looking after yourself – for young people.
Young Minds is a great on stop shop for everything mental health related, for you and your students. Take a look at their advice for young people and professionals here.
Good mental health is essential for young people to be happy, healthy and do their best in school. Mental health awareness is increasing, and more and more resources are available to help teachers support them. The words mental health crisis get used a lot – let’s do everything we can to help young people in the face of growing challenges, and help them flourish.