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How Schools Educate Students About Mental Health

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Mental health is known to be stigmatised for many years, this is because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people, but it is also because of people’s cultural beliefs. Mental health is someone’s mental state, how they are feeling mentally, your phycological wellbeing. Mental health is one of the most popular essay topics and in this paper we will understand it’s importance as it affects how we think and act, how we handle stress and that can then lead to illnesses like depression, social anxiety, anxiety, and other major disorders. 

Factors of mental health include: biological factors which are genes or brain chemistry, life experiences such as trauma or abuse or even family history of mental health problems. Sometimes it could be that you’re just simply unhappy with your life. Issues that can be affecting students today can be; exam pressures, fitting into the social media norm of being perfect, LGBTQ+ students may feel like they aren’t being accepted for who they are and are being bullied, friendships, relationships, poverty, family issues or trauma. Some major mental health issues that students deal with include; depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, eating disorders, substance abuse and suicidal issues. Having initiatives implemented in schools is an effective way to educate students about mental health especially at a very young age and really educate students on how to ask for help and of the dangers and how taking care of your mental health and wellbeing is a very serious issue.

Over the years advocating about mental health in schools have started to increase. As research has shown that children dealing with health disorders like; anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, ADHD etc, affects the student’s concentration from learning at school and social interactions, the two of which are basic to the achievement of understudies. Mental health is an important issue as many estimates show that mental health effects so many children yet aren’t receiving the mental health care they need. Having initiatives and services in schools can allow support for students who are struggling and are afraid to come forward and ask for help. Usually children are afraid of reaching out for help because they are scared that they would feel like they are being judged and may feel embarrassed. Some students don’t reach out for help based on their cultural beliefs. Schools also need to assure that not all students are going through the same thing and may react differently than others when gaining support, everyone differs with how they cope and what their coping mechanisms are. Addressing mental health issues is a must in schools as reports have found that 1 in 7 children aged 4 to 17 were assessed as having mental disorders in the previous 12 months – equivalent to 560,000 Australian children and adolescents. Other reports show that students with mental health disorders affects student’s attendance and are unable to stay focused in the classroom. A report shows that students in years 1-6 with mental health issues missed an average 12 days per year. As students from year 7-10 miss an average of 23 days per years, and students in year 11 and 12 miss and average of 26 days per year. Students with mental health issues like ADHD, anxiety and social anxiety affects students to stay focused in class and grasped the content in classes but also find it difficult to interact and work with others, which is considered a disadvantage. This is why schools and teachers must have strategies in place to help and support students who are in need and are struggling with mental health issues. Even though every school in Australia offers student support and school psychologists, schools have yet to take major action on this serious matter and have only made a few initiatives to support this matter.

One current school initiative that has been implemented in schools is through community awareness campaigns like “R U OK? DAY”. R U OK? DAY is a day that is dedicated to inspiring and empowering everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them by asking a simple question “Are you okay?” and support someone in the event that they are struggling. R U OKAY DAY is a suicide prevention charity and it is held every year on the 10th of September. On this day students all over schools are to wear yellow shirts or yellow ribbons to support the day. On R U OKAY? DAY stress free activities are placed throughout the day that involve students interacting with each other and making sure their classmates are okay. Some schools bring in advocators of mental health to talk to the students about how important mental health is and how we can take care of ourselves but also notifying students how and to who we can reach out to. Brainstorm production is a live tour around schools that is an innovative, interactive educational theatre that brings about positive social change through a range of bullying programs, cyber safety programs, positive behaviour programs, resilience programs and mental health programs. They perform plays to students about real-life strategies, but most importantly advocate about mental health. On R U OKAY? DAY they went around schools to talk to students about how to express their feelings and support their friends, and where they can go and ask for help. They perform plays that help students identify the signs of anxiety or depression and provides information about the supports available. Other campaigns include advocating about mental health though school newsletters and information nights, this notifies parents to be more aware of their children’s health and wellbeing.

Another initiative that schools have taken action into educating students about mental health is through having it part of the school curriculum as well as having a safe and supportive environment. Mental health is a unit part of the PDHPE curriculum in all primary and high school from foundation to year 10 and is touched on if chosen in year 11 and 12. The unit addresses how mental health and wellbeing can be enhanced at individual and community level. The content supports students to develop knowledge, understanding and skills to manage their own mental health and wellbeing and how to support others. However, it is still not enough for the students to really grasped the knowledge of this serious matter, as one twelfth of the health and physical education syllabus is aimed squarely at mental health. This shows that schools need to increase the practical, skills-based approach to good mental health, merging it into other subjects from early childhood. But also, to further educate students in primary and high school and construct a more in-depth unit about mental health awareness in the school’s curriculum. Having a unit about mental health being part of the curriculum is a really smart and is an efficient way of educating students about mental health and wellbeing and the importance of looking after it, and it can be affective. This will make students more comfortable and will feel okay when needing to reach out, it would make them feel like they are not alone as they would start to see that they are not the only one struggling as they are witnessing their classmates expressing their feelings about the matter. Having mental health part of the school’s curriculum is very crucial and would be a really affective strategy when needing to educate students about their mental health and wellbeing.

Even though schools have yet to take major action and still need to implement more initiatives based on their student’s mental health and wellbeing, schools are slowly becoming more aware of the dangers and the seriousness of mental health and students wellbeing’s and how important it is to educate and notify students from primary school and all throughout high school. Society must step out of the stigma that is around mental health and take mental health issues seriously. As well as schools really need to take action by offering more initiatives and support to students who are struggling with mental health issues and really look after their students and offer the support they need. Looking after student’s health and wellbeing must be a priority in all schools and having mental health being educated to students across schools will hopefully prevent it from becoming more serious and a risk to students lives.   

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