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Weekly Blog- 10/09/2023

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Mental health in schools. A challenge for all.

In an ever-changing world, schools are now facing many challenging tasks. Amongst these is distinguishing between students who genuinely require time off due to mental health issues and those who would benefit from attending school regularly (therefore not attending is actually detrimental to their wellbeing). This dilemma is much debated and doesn’t help the growing concern surrounding the mental health of students. While schools are increasingly acknowledging the importance of mental well-being, identifying and addressing mental health issues remains an area of little progress, despite the best efforts of all.

The changing context

It's essential to understand the context of the growing mental health crisis among students. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of mental health disorders among young people. Factors such as academic pressure, social media (the bane of leader’s lives!), and the changing dynamics of the modern world have contributed to this crisis.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are no longer rare occurrences among students; they have become alarmingly common. This reality places an enormous pressure on schools to identify and support those students who are struggling, but the challenge lies in distinguishing genuine issues from other factors that may lead students to stay away from school. It cannot be ignored that some students will use mental health as an excuse when they are finding life tough. These times happen to us all, and sometimes building resilience and facing up to these times, benefit students long-term.

Mental health or normal academic pressure?

One of the primary reasons schools struggle to determine whether a student is genuinely facing mental health issues or not, is the fine line between mental health conditions and academic pressure. The education system places immense stress on students to perform well academically (especially given COVID and the amount of learning missed). This pressure can often lead to symptoms that mimic mental health issues, such as stress, which although detrimental to health, is not a mental health condition. Never the less, still needs to be managed effectively between all stakeholders.

When students express these feelings, it becomes difficult for schools to ascertain whether they are struggling with their mental health condition or if they are experiencing the typical pressures associated with academic life. As a result, there is a real difference of opinion of what support is needed.

Why don’t students speak up?

Stigma of mental health issues remains a significant barrier to identifying and addressing the problem in schools. Many students are hesitant to speak openly about their mental health struggles due to fear of judgment or discrimination. This fear can push them to hide their issues and avoid attending school, which further complicates the process of determining who genuinely needs help.

Additionally, schools themselves may inadvertently contribute to the stigma by not addressing mental health openly or by reacting negatively when students do come forward. In such an environment, it's even more challenging for students to be honest about their mental health concerns.

Don’t just place the problem at schools door

Mental health is not solely influenced by the academic environment; external factors can play a substantial role in a student's mental well-being. Family issues, traumatic experiences, peer pressure, and socioeconomic factors can all contribute to a student's mental health challenges. Schools may not always have access to this information, making it difficult to understand why a student is absent from school. Without a complete picture of the student's life, it's challenging for schools to make this determination accurately. Add the pressure of attendance figures and it is clear why schools are in such a difficult situation.

Work together

Effective communication between schools, students, and their families (and having all on board and pulling in the same direction) is vital in addressing this challenge. When students face mental health issues, they need a support system that includes collaboration of schools and parents. However, many students may not feel comfortable discussing their struggles openly, and some families may not be aware of the severity of the situation.

Accepting support

Schools are now hiring more counsellors than ever to play a pivotal role in addressing the mental health needs of students. They are trained professionals who can help identify signs of mental health issues and provide guidance on the appropriate steps to take. Parents should trust this advice (or certainly give a chance) and not just shut down this option as they have a problem with schools.

Most importantly- mental health is real

It is equally crucial not to underestimate the severity of mental health concerns. Overlooking genuine issues can have dire consequences for students' well-being and academic success.

Students who are struggling with mental health issues and are forced to attend school may experience a deterioration in their condition, leading to long-term negative effects on their mental health. This includes what we would never want to happen…them not making it back to school at all! This happens more often than you would think. It is very sad there are children out there not in education due to this.

 

Areas we can hold Mental Health First Aid training at your location (please ask if outside of these locations about

additional charge):

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Birmingham

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Cannock

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Dudley

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Kidderminster

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Stafford

Mental Health First Aid Training Coursesfor Telford

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Walsall

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for West Bromwich

Mental Health First Aid Training Courses for Wolverhampton

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