Celebrating Teacher's Day and Mental Health Day

Importance of teachers

Teachers are an essential part of our society. They inspire and drive young people, and have a positive impact on their crucial developmental years. Many young people struggle with their mental health, and school can be, for many, a safe space for them to express themselves and have access to their support needs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed that, “a positive psycho-social environment at school can affect the mental health and well-being of young people”. Teachers are intertwined in formulating this positive environment. 

As children and young people spend a significant amount of their time at school and with their teachers, teachers have the ability to influence good self-care practices and coping mechanisms. Through modelling the behaviour of teachers, young people can pick up new skills and positive behaviours

However, it’s important to note that teachers are not mental health care professionals. Teachers have the ability to pick up on any mental health concerns of their students and can direct them to the correct assistance, such as helping them in accessing a counsellor, yet many have limited to no training on how to manage the mental health of their students. 

Impact of a positive teacher-student relationship (TSR)

WHO highlights that the feeling of being connected, having good communication, and the perception of a caring adult in school has demonstrated to have an important positive impact on the mental health outcomes for young people. Lessard et al (2013) found that the reduction in dropout rates for young people in schools was associated with having positive relationships with and support from their teachers. Research and studies have found that effective social support from both teachers and peers has a positive impact on a student’s self-esteem and negative association on depression

Dods (2013) found that caring TSR connections are critical in improving the mental health of students that have experienced trauma. These connections form when teachers are attuned to a students’ emotional state, are naturally caring, and when teacher-student relationships are teacher-driven and individualised. The positive impact that these relationships have on a student’s mental health highlight the importance of teachers on young people. 

What we can do to support our teachers 

Mental health affects lots of children and young people. 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem and 50% of mental health problems are established at the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24. Education and school can be used as a tool in helping to improve the mental health of students. With the help from teachers, children and young people can access the right support. 

Teachers have expressed that their apprehension in getting more involved in mental health education programmes is down to a lack of training, experience, time constraints and it being potentially ‘emotionally draining’. Many have asked for additional support, such as training, school counsellors, time, funding and a coordinated approach in tackling bad mental health among children and young people

Teachers prove to be an impactful first step in helping children and young people improve their mental health, especially through building their confidence and self-esteem, decreasing depression and acting as a role model. Nonetheless, teachers need more support in ensuring that these young people access the right and most appropriate support. Teachers play a crucial role in supporting the mental health of young people and we want to thank teachers everywhere for their endless encouragement and supporting the next generations. 

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