Mental Health and Well-Being Within Schools

Mental Health revolves around emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental Health is important from childhood to adulthood as it helps a person determine how they relate to others, handle stress, and make healthy choices. Well-being is particularly important to children as it influences how they cope with trauma and physical ill-health. Schools play an important role in creating a positive environment ensuring that students have a sense of connection and belonging. With the increased rates of anxiety and depression being reported among students, schools should be able to spot the early signs of poor mental health and emotional well-being. This paper will address ways in which schools deal with mental health and well-being, support programs for mental health, and the impact of enabling student voice and parent interventions.

The school environment can affect students’ physical and mental health. The school ethos ensures students stay in a safe and challenging educational environment while collaborating with parents, teachers, and the community (Granvik, Plenty and Modin, 2021, p.1205-1218). Addressing mental health in schools is essential as 1 in 5 young people experience behavioral and mental health disorders while 1 in 10 young people cannot function in schools as they are severely affected. (Hearth, 2022). Schools can address mental health and well-being in various ways. One way is to identify students experiencing mental health difficulties (Dimitropoulos et al., 2022, p.405-415). Students may be hesitant to go forward with troubles they may be facing; thus, their mental health issues may go undetected (Andermo et al., 2020, p.1-27). Teachers should have a good insight into a student’s background and circumstances to identify those dealing with mental issues and offer adequate support (O’Reilly et al., 2018, p.647-662). The intervention of teachers when students are in need can prevent a catastrophe from occurring.

Schools can conduct mental health training to help teachers identify students that need help (Van Poortlviet, Axford and Lloyd, 2o18). A teacher trained in the basics of mental health can use the right terminology to talk to students, get them to open up, and identify signs to watch out for (O’Reilly et al., 2018, p.450-461). Parents and students can also be taught to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health issues (Arnold et al., 2020, p.1081-1092). Schools can add mental health lessons to the curriculum to create awareness (Ryan, 2022)). Students can put posters around the school’s compound to act as a reminder that those struggling can be helped (Mansfield et al., 2021). Parents can attend mental health seminars to become aware of how to identify mental health issues (Lehtimaki et al., 2021). Educating all the community members will help identify students who are struggling easily.

Creating an open-door policy can also help students feel comfortable opening up to a staff member (Marsh and Mathur, 2020, p.67-73). Being willing to listen to students will make them feel they are catered for (Thayer, Weeks and Cook, 2021, p.286-306). Schools can hire trained professionals and voluntary student counselors to create a ‘safe space’ for students to be heard (Kourgiantakis et al., 2022, p.123-148). An open-door policy creates a safe and positive school environment for students to feel supported with their mental health issues, well-being, and learning. (Timimi Z and Timimi S, 2022, p.23-47) A school learning environment can also be improved by creating disciplinary structures for students who treat or speak to others badly (Macmillan et al., 2022, p.128-143). Teachers can create an atmosphere of positivity and support by rewarding students’ acts of kindness and understanding.

Mental health and well-being can also be addressed by teaching students the importance of physical health and how it is associated with mental health (Lourenço, 2018). Lessons dedicated to physical health, healthy eating, and managing stress will develop a positive body-mind relationship for students (Fletcher et al., 2019, p. 538-550). Encouraging social time can also help students to focus on making friends and bonding (Naidoo, 2019). Creating clubs in schools can also help students feel a sense of community and belonging (Setauket et al., 2020, p 1055-1064). Schools can develop clubs for activities such as arts and crafts, drama, dance, debate, sports, and book clubs (Salway et al., 2019, p.1-10). Organizing a wellness week can also facilitate better student well-being (Anderson et al., 2019, p.489-508). A wellness week may include hosting a sports match, organizing charity events, and hosting sessions focusing on meditation and stress-busting techniques (Ravindran et al., 2018). Incorporating various methods to address mental health issues and well-being can help to create a positive learning environment for students.

Targeted support and referrals can help improve students’ wellness and mental health (Halliday et al., 2019, p.173-196). School mental health referrals are procedures used to identify students who need help and connect them with the appropriate mental health support (McKown, 2019, p.205-221). An example of a mental health referral is the School Mental Health Referral Pathway (SMHRP). The SMHRP was funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help develop effective systems to refer youth to mental health service providers (McCance-Katz, 2018, p.1046-1048). The SMHRP supports systems that improve well-being by providing mental health support.

The multitiered system of support (MTSS) is also an SMHRP toolkit widely used among educators and mental health practitioners to provide mental Health needs to students (Malone, Wycoff and Turner, 2021). The National Centre for School Mental Health (NCSMH) strengthens policies and programs that ensure effective learning for students (Zabek et al., 2022, p.1-18). The National Insitute of Mental Health (NIMH) is another referral that facilitates the treatment of mental illnesses helping in recovery and prevention (Rahman et al., 2020, p.834-836). Physical and online student support groups are important in helping students get help and make connections (Oxley, 2021). Referral programs are important as they identify a student’s struggle and direct them to the appropriate support based on interventions conducted.

Mental health interventions that can be incorporated in schools include stress and emotional management, effective communication, and social and emotional learning programs (Franzese, Pecinka and Schwenk, 2020, p.77-81). Services offered by public schools in the United States include assessment, crisis intervention, referrals, and behavior management (Ahmad et al., 2020, p.230). School-based interventions (SBIs) positively impact a student’s life by ensuring stable mental health (Estrapala and Grieshaber, 2022). Some school-based interventions include systematic review, cyberbullying, caregivers, cognitive behavior therapy, and an autism spectrum disorder (Barkas, Armstrong and Bishop, 2022, p.1125-1140). SBIs prevent and treat medico psychological problems and disorders in students.

Staff development programs ensure mental health staff is educated on ways to serve individuals and help recruit and retain skilled workers (Mendelson, 2020, p.1081-1092). The staff develops skills, confidence, and understanding throughout the process (Scott, 2021, p.149-163). Skills learned during the process include communication skills, understanding different people’s needs and challenges, and the ability to filter and analyze information and facilitate group discussions (Sandow, 2018, p.109-125). Staff developments make it easier for staff to understand students and be able to help them (Moriles and Amparado, 2020). Cases of mental health issues can greatly reduce through the process.

Stronger school communities result when students have a voice in mental health policy decisions that affect them directly (Bourke and MacDonald, 2018, p.156-168). To ensure effective interventions, those who experience mental health issues should be heard (Chaudhary, Sudzina, and Mikkelsen, 2020, p.2894). Schools can incorporate student voices by involving them in developing mental health strategies, co-creating responses to mental health, and allowing them to highlight issues that negatively impact their mental health (Blackman et al., 2022). Involving students creates new solutions to problems and results in long-term benefits (Lareau, 2019, p.61-73). Different approaches in responding to mental health illness work for different people; therefore, it is necessary to understand the experiences of current students (Undiyaundeye, 2020, p.4-16). Strategies implemented after fully understanding students’ views are more likely to succeed (Kelso et al., 2020). Student voice can also play an important role in helping to develop student support services and create a sense of empowerment and agency for students (Franco, 2018, p.551-565). Engaging students is effective in establishing ways to reduce mental illness.

Involving parents in their children’s learning, mental health, and school activities will ensure students strive academically and in their general well-being (Clemons, 2020). Addressing mental health difficulties benefits parents, the school community, and students (Silver, 2021, p.133-146). There are three methods by which schools can engage with students; specialist engagement, targeted engagement, and universal engagement (Hainline, 2022). Specialist engagement includes multi-family groups, therapeutic interventions, and the family school model (Altinci, 2019, p.202-212). Targeted engagement includes meetings, parent/child bonding initiatives, parent outreach, and Parent Teacher Associations ( Bastiani, 2018, p.101-116). Universal engagement includes online engagement, pupil reports, and key stage information evenings (Gronholm, Nye and Michelson, 2020, p.67-73). Working with parents will ensure that they also help students deal with mental illness.

Mental Health and well-being can be reduced in schools by creating a positive environment for students, working with parents, incorporating support groups, training teachers and staff, and enabling students’ voices. Working with parents keeps them on track with the mental health of students. Various referral programs ensure students get the help they need. Training teachers and staff also help identify students struggling with mental illness. Another way of reducing mental Health is by enabling student voices to make informed decisions. Lastly, a positive school environment builds students’ confidence and helps relieve stress. Mental health illness can be reduced with the effort of teachers, parents, students, and the community.

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