Mental Health in Children: Schools Have a Role to Play

There are several ways that schools can support the mental health of their students. Some of these services are provided outside of the school system, such as referrals to a psychiatrist or doctor, while others are provided within the school setting. School staff can identify warning signs and connect a student with needed resources.

Identifying and treating mental illness in children is not always easy. Many parents fail to recognize the signs of the condition. Although some changes in child behaviour are normal for a growing child, others may indicate a serious mental disorder. Many parents are reluctant to report early signs of a child’s problems because of the stigma associated with mental illness.

A child’s mental health can affect their academic performance and ability to function at home and at school. Some children with mental health challenges may be absent a lot, have difficulty starting or finishing work, or experience periods of poor behaviour. Other children may struggle to cope with social interactions and may avoid school altogether.

Improving mental health in children starts early. In fact, early identification and treatment of mental illness can have a profound impact on a child’s life. School policies should improve access to mental health services for children. About half of all youth experience a mental health condition by age 14, and one in six will develop a mental illness by the time they reach adulthood. Despite these high rates, only half of youth receive mental health services.

While mental health education is not yet compulsory, teachers and other educators can promote mental health awareness in their classrooms. They can also promote self-care among students. There are several key elements that teachers should include in their lesson plans. These include self-care, recognizing the signs of a mental health problem, and cultural attitudes about mental illness.

Research suggests that secure relationships with family and friends are essential for kids’ long-term mental health. These relationships enable kids to cope with stressful situations and problems in adulthood. This is especially important for children who come from dysfunctional homes. If their parents are not emotionally supportive, they are unlikely to develop secure relationships with others. Emotional support from friends helps them deal with difficulties productively and reduces their risk of developing mental health problems.

The study also suggests that children with better peer play skills tend to be more mentally healthy as adults. It’s the first time that peer play ability has been linked with mental health. Researchers from the University of Cambridge analysed data from 1,700 children aged three to seven. They found that children with better peer play ability had less mental illness four years later. They were also less likely to suffer from hyperactivity and conduct problems.

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