Students today are under immense pressure and stress to perform well. As a result, they may stagger under the weight of responsibilities on their shoulders, which can affect their mental well-being. They may feel depressed and anxious, with some even experiencing intense panic attacks at school. This is unhealthy for a growing child and can shatter their self-image. When a student is no longer able to keep up with their school or find ways to control their emotions, they may start dropping out.
On the other hand, some students may also act out in school and choose to bully their peers, not pay attention to their teachers, and desire to create mischief and mayhem. As a school’s guidance counselor, you’re well aware that whether a pupil becomes reclusive or starts becoming loud, both are a cry for help. Therefore, to improve their mental well-being and untangle them from the issues they bury deep within themselves, here’s how you can take care of your students:
1. Ensure you have the right credentials
Mental health is a complex issue that requires immense understanding before you provide valuable suggestions that students can benefit from. Hence, to understand how pupils think, perceive, and act, you need to obtain the proper credentials that will skillfully provide you with the insights you are looking for.
While there are many independent degrees available for you to pursue, nothing comes close to school psychology programs online accredited by NASP that have both the theory and skills that you need to work with pupils in an informed manner.
Once you have the license and education that helps you make sense of your student’s complicated mentality, you can work as a counselor In schools and help students. This job includes assisting them in differentiating between their feelings and what their families expect from them. You can also help students with self-esteem issues that cloud their judgment and teach them coping mechanisms to manage anxiety and stress.
2. Get parents involved
Educational institutes cannot do much if parents aren’t playing their role in the welfare of their children. Classrooms can only build so much of a child’s self-confidence, which their parents can destroy in no time. So when these two authoritative bodies are not on the same page, it is hard to counsel and help a student. Therefore you should actively ensure that parents understand the importance of their child’s mental health.
This may include discussions on how a student reacts, behaves, and thinks while connecting it to their psychological health. Once parents know the significance of their role, you can encourage them to be there for their children. Introduce them to methods like positive reinforcement, encouragement, and giving students a safe space to express themselves without feeling judged. As a result, a pupil may feel more accepted at home and less stressed out to perform better at the expense of their health.
3. Teach students healthy ways to express themselves
Students may often not have the tools to express themselves openly as they like. They may mince their words, struggle to communicate with you, or may feel shy to speak their mind. This is unhealthy for your pupils and can often add to their aggression and emotional turbulence. When a child cannot convey their thoughts, you’ll never anticipate their needs or know what they want.
There are many ways in which you can help children find ways to speak up. These include verbal cues like informing the teacher when they feel unsafe, emotionally distraught, and too tired to keep up with the lecture. At the same time, students who use non-verbal cues can also be encouraged to use symbols and hand signs to make their points. This lets them stay in their comfort zone and allows the pupil to communicate with their teacher without feeling signaled out.
But your job doesn’t end here. It would help if you also guided teachers on understanding these cues and reacting appropriately. Anytime a student needs to tap out of the class and needs a break, encourage teachers to oblige with the pupil and give them room to relax and de-stress. Don’t push a child to continue focusing in class when they can’t do so.
When it comes to verbal cues, instruct teachers on what each sign means and motivate them to study techniques like ASL, which can make them more attuned to the needs of their pupils. Eventually, this makes classrooms a safe space for students and teachers, where boundaries are respected and communication channels are created. This will cause a student to feel more appreciated and inspire them to continue learning in class without feeling intimidated by their environment.
4. Push for anti-bullying campaigns
Bullying is one of the leading factors of mental health distress in students. Physical abuse, verbal lashing, and mockery can impact a student negatively, often making them feel embarrassed and targeted. There is no positive outcome from relentless bullying; the only way forward is to push for campaigns and programs to address these situations and stop them.
However, punishing bullies is also not a good solution. Often these students also suffer from mental health issues and an unstable domestic situation, making them project their pain onto others.
As an educator or school counselor, it is your job to recognize why a student is acting a certain way and help them accordingly. You can provide resources around the school that gives students room to breathe and encourage them to seek help. For instance, you can make a pamphlet on healthy ways to deal with your anger without hurting others or one that provides students who are getting bullied facilities that they can use to protect themselves. Always keep an open door policy and let students, no matter who they are, come to you and talk to you about their issues.
Students are mentally distressed, which is affecting their overall well-being. Like any individual, pupils need a safe and comfortable learning environment, which only a mental health expert can provide. Your understanding of mental health ailments puts you in an advantageous position. You’re able to connect with pupils, understand their needs, and provide practical solutions. These include giving them the space to talk, recognizing when they need help, and discussing the importance of mental health with parents. Additionally, by working on campaigns like the anti-bullying program, you can save students from falling deeper into their mental agitation and seek help instead of suffering alone.