Supporting Mental Health in the Classroom
Often, we think of kids as little buzzing balls of energy and joy. While they’re regularly these hints of sunshine, kids can also have off days, weeks, or even months.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year’s theme focuses on how one’s surroundings impact mental health. For young children and teenagers, the classroom has a huge influence on their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. After all, kids can spend upwards of 6 hours a day at school!
It can be difficult to know what to say or do when you see students struggling. While you don’t need to be a mental health professional to have a considerable influence, it’s important for educators to know how to support their classroom in times of stress or discomfort.
Here are a few ways to help create an environment that supports mental health in the classroom year-round.
Talk About Mental Health in the Classroom
Mental health shouldn’t just come up in health class. Why not talk about it during science or English, too? For example, read materials where characters struggle with their mental health or learn the science behind the brain and emotions.
Creating a school culture that supports mental health is more than having a wellness curriculum and cross-curriculum work. It also means making sure kids feel safe, seen, and respected. Always acknowledge different cultures and backgrounds, and work to break down stigmas.
Teach Kids About Emotions
Emotions are complicated! Younger students may not know how to identify or express their feelings. While emotions occur naturally, kids need our help breaking down why they feel this way and learning how to communicate their feelings.
Read books and watch videos about emotions. Also, share your feelings, such as “I didn’t sleep well last night, so my energy is low today,” or, “You all listened so well today, which makes me happy.”
When you spend nearly every day with kids, you get to know them pretty well! Always trust your gut when you think a child may be acting outside of their usual self. When you notice something, ask them how they’re doing. Never pressure them to open up but let them know that your classroom is a safe space.
Ensure that students know what resources are available, whether talking to the school counselor or nurse, getting an extension on an assignment, or just being there to listen to them.
Practice Wellness Awareness Months
Mental Health Awareness Month is an excellent opportunity to have a spirit day and promote the school’s mental health initiatives. Ask students to dress in the official color, lime green, and bring in speakers to talk about different issues.
Bring different (and engaging) mental health professionals to host Q&A sessions with students. Allow the students to submit anonymous questions and provide real examples regarding mental health.
You can bring attention to many other months, such as Suicide Prevention Month in September or Eating Disorder Awareness Month in February.
Holistic Health Care
The mind and body are very much a married couple. All of our thoughts and emotions can influence our physical feelings and health. And the other way around, too. Think about it! Have you ever been anxious about something and couldn’t stomach a bite of food?
This is why it’s essential to try and keep track of everything. For instance, noting when a student is low, didn’t get enough sleep, is feeling forgetful, sad… you name it. An electronic student health record (SHR) solution like Magnus Health can help you easily keep track of these notes and make them accessible to other school staff and faculty.
Have you ever felt the air practically vibrating with tension on test day? Or maybe you recently talked about a heavy subject and need to bring things back down again. As a class, try to reach a level of relaxation. To do this, try a group breathing or mindfulness exercise, or go outside for a quick activity break.
Mental Health for Teachers and Educators
Teachers and other classroom professionals are almost always kind-hearted, generous people. But always remember to fill your cup first! To truly help students, you need to also be at your best. By prioritizing your own mental health, you’re also setting an amazing example for the students.
A big part of encouraging strong mental health for teachers and other school professionals is keeping stress levels low, both at home and at work. Make time for exercise or incorporate journaling into your daily routine to de-stress and process your emotions outside of the classroom. At school, find ways to work smarter, not harder. This could be crowdsourcing content planning or using software like Magnus Health to complete tasks in a quicker and more efficient manner.
These are just a few ways you can support yours and your students’ mental health in the classroom. Download our free eBook to learn more ways to prioritize mental health at home and at school.