WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates 20 percent of American adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder. Around eight percent of these adolescents meet the criteria for major depression. Each year, approximately 2 million teens attempt suicide; about 2,000 succeed.
The mental health crisis in our schools is a result of a lack of education on the matter, and a lack of resources to properly mitigate it. Teachers, who are the most hands-on with these students the majority of the time, aren’t trained in mental health. And on top of that, they have 25 or more other students in that class and dozens of other responsibilities on their plate.
Teachers are not equipped with the time, resources, or training necessary to give students with signs of mental health issues the unique attention they deserve. Moreover, mental health education is seldom part of the student’s curriculum, even though parents recognize the importance of the subject.
What role do administrators such as heads of schools or principals play in this issue?
To better understand this issue I asked several high school students if they believed their head master and or principal affected their mental health.
Emma H, grade 10: I think so. I personally go to therapy weekly for issues relating to anxiety and a lot of my friends do to. It seems like a lot of people have mental health issues but no one here (at school) ever talks to us about it. Mr. Barton (our principal) or Mr. Neely (our headmaster) should figure out a way to teach us about our mental health but instead we never talk about it.
Darren R, grade 12: Of course. I remember a period of time a few months ago when everything was happening with Mr. Neely (our headmaster who resigned due to issues with faculty, parents, and students.) It was all we talked about. Especially now with everything going on it seems like that was such a waste of time.
Simran G, grade 11: I would say they impact my mental health. Considering they control such a huge aspect of my life it’s hard for them not to. There have been countless times were I feel so unheard it’s unbelievable.
Charlotte H, grade 12: I’d say yes, they probably affect some more than others but we have to deal with every decision they make. I don’t know if they really realize they have that power you know? It can definitely cause a lot of anxiety when they disregard our options or make decisions we disagree with. They treat us like adults until it comes to the important stuff… then we’re just kids who don’t understand.
MY RESPONSE: WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE
Below is a short video showing how facilitating a conversation about mental health and mental illness is helpful to students.
Administrators need to facilitate conversations regarding mental health and mental illness. Even small steps such as having the school guidance counselor give a presentation during a school assembly or having a professional come in to speak.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Here are a few small examples of what we can to do institute change:
-Schedule a meeting (zoom call) with your head of school or principal to discuss this issue and ask that the school arranges for a lecture on mental health
-If you want additional support before meeting with your head of school or principal talk to a teacher and ask that they get involved as well
-Research local experts who would be willing to speak to your school or ask your school guidance counselor to give a presentation on the importance of mental health
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
I’m interested to hear from you on whether or not my project is relatable to you. Did you feel this issue is something common and widespread?
In the comments below, please let me know what you think of my projects by answering one of the following two questions:
- Do you feel like administrators affect the mental health of students your school?
- Do you feel like you receive enough information and education based on mental health and or mental illness at your school?
Please feel free to comment any other questions or ideas you have about this issue!