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Back-to-School: How to Recognize Mental Health Issues in Kids

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Mental health was once a taboo subject, but as the culture shifts, teachers and parents alike are preparing to step up and create change.  Check out the mental health look fors in kids, what you can do to help, and how Well Being Trust is supporting these efforts. 

Disclosure:  I am partnering with Well Being Trust.  All opinions are my own.

Back-To-School: How to recognize mental health issues in kids

Mental Health and Kids

I started my 11th year teaching last week and one of the biggest topics in our building (like most others) is our student’s mental health.  It is a silent epidemic that is becoming something that everyone needs to be paying attention to.

Colorado Teacher

NPR shared some statistics a few years ago, which I am sure have gone up, but are still alarming.  They stated that about 1 in 5 students in the United States shows signs of mental health issues, but of those only about 20% will be treated.  In a school of nearly 2000 students we are looking at over 400 students struggling with mental health.

How to Recognize Mental Health In Children

It is a growing issue in our communities.  We see it all over the news, we know that it is part of a larger problem and all we want is to make it better.  Often as a teacher and as a parent I feel useless, but I do know that I can make a difference and so can others.  As educators, we are trained on signs to look for, and I wanted to share how to recognize mental health in children, to help teachers and parents.

Science Classroom
  • A child who becomes very sad and even withdrawn or other big changes to their typical personality.
  • Anxiety attacks.  These can be varied, but I have had students outright tell me they are having an attack, a student just burst out in tears for apparently no reason, a student passing out from hyperventilating, and a student becoming quickly confused and lost. 
  • Lack of concentration that is abnormal for the child. 
  • Inability to sit still and generally out of control.
  • Self-harm whether purposeful or inadvertently.  
  • Drug and/or alcohol use and other self medication. 
  • A change in their typical behavior toward negative actions like fighting. 
  • Weight loss and general changes in their appearance and hygiene.

What Can You do?

Mental health in a child is not always immediate.  It is not like they just walk in one day a different person then before.  Often the changes are very gradual and the signs are hard to spot. Sometimes you may need to collaborate with other teachers or parents to see if you are all noticing patterns in that child and then you need to get that child help.

The Genderbread Person

You can also make sure that you are creating safe spaces for your students or children.  Make sure to keep an open dialogue that is non-judgemental and positive. Direct students that are struggling to the appropriate mental health resources in your school or community.  Do. Not. Give. Up. Show them you care and be there for them as they navigate through this tough time.

Well Being Trust 

One awesome resource is Well Being Trust.  This national foundation is dedicated to advancing the mental, social, and spiritual health of our nation.  They are bringing an ecosystem approach to mental health through clinical and community transformation, advocacy, social engagement and education.

Well Being Trust

Well Being Trust is making a difference for youth and is aiming to decrease depression and suicide rates and help build communities of resilient youth. They invest in programs and initiatives to help youth with mental health, they advocate for strong communities by connecting leaders and providing resources and they are putting mental health at the forefront of social engagement by leading those tough conversations and sharing their knowledge. 

What other ways have you been able to recognize mental health in children?

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