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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Mental Health Support in the Classroom

A recent survey revealed that 81% of teachers feel responsible for the emotions of children in their classrooms. 

Many students, and as a student myself, relate to the stress of the school environment. Sadly, many students feel the need to keep it to themselves or do not receive adequate help. The majority of teachers in a 1000-person survey also agreed that teachers do not have adequate resources to help students with mental health issues.

Teachers inherently teach students academic subjects, and you could argue that if they do that, they’re doing their job well. However, I think we can unanimously agree that a supportive, interactive teacher who is interested in their students and engaging in the classroom makes all of the difference. All this to say, a teacher’s job does not end with teaching. It involves human connection, attention to students, and responsibility. Therefore, preventative measures toward mental health have to be implemented better in schools. 

Teachers often say that they don’t have enough resources to mentally support their students. In fact, 89% of teachers responded that “Teachers need more resources for supporting their students’ mental health in the classroom.” While many middle and high schools educate teachers and students on mental health, teachers have a difficult time approaching students. Teachers often can sense a student going through mental struggles. The struggle of the teacher comes when trying to approach the student. 

One teacher, Uma Gupta, shares that there is “​​fear of inadvertently violating the boundaries of student privacy.” Mental distress can be caused by a number of things, from studies to extremely sensitive issues. The fear lies in the nuance and potentially hurting the student even further. Students cope with pain and handle their emotions differently, making it all the more difficult to approach a student. 

However, teacher mental health is just as important. No matter who you are or what you do, holding the burden of another person’s emotional problems is difficult when you yourself are not in the right mental headspace to do so. Dealing with your own mental stresses is already very tiring as it is. Without the emotional capacity to carry another person’s stress with you, it could break you first before it breaks them. 

That is not to say that you should not care for another individual. Small acts of kindness can go a long way, especially on a bad day. Furthermore, fostering a symbiotic student-teacher relationship can be uplifting. This could open the door to mental health conversations and awareness. Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, wrote about a “fallacy around mental health”: “the belief that a big initiative must occur in order to be effective.” To students, big actions can be great, but any action that comes from love and care is just as great. “The benefit of being heard, validated, and acknowledged is immensely valuable. Teachers can demonstrate that they are a safe resource for their students to turn to and can make themselves available during office hours or after class meetings to check in on students.”

One method that could help teachers take helpful actions is the C.A.R.E. method established by Carin-Isabel Knoop and Bahia El Oddi. 

C: Check your own assumptions, and biases, and reflect on the stereotypes you may bring into the classroom. Educate yourself on mental well-being and issues. 

A: Act to make yourself more approachable by taking time to know your students. Address and identify students’ signals of emotional distress and minute differences in behavior.

R: Recognize mental issues and incorporate them into the curriculum and classroom, while being cautious of misconceptions. 

E: Empower students to take care of their own mental health, starting with providing a safe space for practicing self-care and sharing concerns and worries. 

Mental health precautions and care in the classroom have room for improvement. However, there are still actions that teachers can take to minimize mental distress and nurture healthy and involved students. The pressure as a teacher to help a student can be overwhelming. However, with the right mindset and emotional stability, taking the first step to reach out to a student most often is appreciated and goes a long way. Here’s to healthier classroom environments and better mental health education and care in schools!

Written by Isara Moriya




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