The Need for School Mental Health

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Nurturing and sustaining a healthy future.

The youth of today spend more time in schools than they do anywhere else except their homes. This makes the school one of the best places for both educators and students to become increasingly aware of mental health problems and illnesses. The mission of school mental health programmes is to promote healthy social, emotional and behavioural development of the students. Health concerns must be addressed in schools itself if the students are to function satisfactorily and if they are to succeed at school.

It is during childhood and adolescence that students have a large concentration of mental health issues. Giving children access to mental health resources early on in their phase of education can play a key role in mitigating negative consequences later in life. Mental health problems in students might lead to negative outcomes. Some of these include school dropouts, difficulty in learning, behavioural difficulties, school failures and difficulties in performance.

A variety of psychosocial and health problems affect learning and a child’s performance in profound ways. Because of this, school policymakers are trying to assist teachers in dealing with such problems. Prominent examples of this are seen in the counselling, psychological and social service programs that schools provide. These programmes have been developed for purposes of early intervention, crisis intervention and prevention, treatment and also to promote positive social and emotional development in a student.

School mental health programmes are very effective because interventions are sensitive to students’ and their family culture, there is an easy access to mental health services in communities where services are scarce, it removes the stigma from mental health services, having these programmes on-site allows teachers to spend more time teaching with fewer distractions from class work.

There is a need for policies and plans that recognise the significance of the integration of mental health into educational institutions, development and implementation of mental health curriculums and the training of teachers. It is important to have mental health programmes in school because it keeps children from affecting their emotional, academic or physical development. It can prevent long-term problems and also improves academic performance and personal relationships with family and friends.

Enhancing mental health in schools in comprehensive ways is not easy. For this to successfully happen, schools should address the barriers that prevail in learning and thus promote healthy development. Once this is done, it is more potential that mental health in schools will be understood as essential to addressing barriers in learning and not as an agenda separate from a school’s instructional mission.

Being a teacher is not easy, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. Mental disorders in young people are now being increasingly recognised and educators are being asked to address those needs in the classroom and beyond. Understanding what these issues are and the many different avenues available to effectively deal with them is an important challenge in today’s educational environment.

In sum, advancing mental health in schools is about much more than expanding services and creating full-service schools. It is about establishing comprehensive and multifaceted approaches which help ensure that schools are caring and supportive places that maximise learning. It is about the fostering and strengthening of the well-being of students, families, schools, and neighbourhoods.


Feature Image Credit: Providence Doucet on Unsplash


Anoushka Thakkar is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.