Introduction: Mental health is a major issue for students of all ages, yet most schools are unprepared to identify warning signs and respond effectively in the case of a mental health crisis. Timeliness is the most important aspect of meeting a student when they are emotionally in need in ways that will show them compassion and care. Student mental health issues can range from mild stress and anxiety to more severe depression and suicidal ideation. As educators, if we do not work to recognize these signs and help manage them to ensure that students are able to focus and learn, our educational system and performance will continue to decline. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the ways that schools can better manage student mental health crises so that our students can feel supported and safe.
Signs of a Student Mental Health Crisis in Schools
When it comes to student mental health, historically schools have played a vital role in identifying and addressing issues early on. Unfortunately, with the massive increase in mental health crises, schools are unable to manage this from a financial or logistical perspective which is very disruptive for both the students and the school community.
Some common signs that a student is experiencing a mental health crisis include:
• sudden changes in mood or behavior
• withdrawing from friends or activities
• increasing absences from school
• declining grades or performance in class
• engaging in self-harmful behaviors
If you notice any of these signs in a student, it's important to take action quickly. The sooner you can connect the student with professional help, the better. If you're not sure how to proceed, your school counselor or psychologist can be a great resource.
Prevention and Intervention Strategies for Student Mental Health Crises
When it comes to preventing and intervening in student mental health crises, schools need to have a comprehensive plan in place. This plan should include strategies for identifying students who may be at risk for a mental health crisis, as well as protocols for responding to and managing a crisis situation.
Some key prevention and intervention strategies that schools can use to support student mental health include:
- The Gaggle ReachOut Crisis Line which provides two-way communication with live, trained, crisis counselors, 24/7 via text, chat or phone when a student needs it;
- Social and emotional learning (SEL) educational programs to help students develop skills like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills;
- Creating a positive school climate where all students feel welcomed, supported, and valued;
- Incorporating trauma-informed practices into school policies and procedures;
- Training staff members on how to identify signs of distress in students and how to respond effectively to a crisis situation; and
- Refer students/families to national and local service providers and resources as needed, such as Gaggle Therapy and Coaching Services to ensure ongoing support post crisis.
In conclusion, it is essential that schools and educators are aware of the signs of a student mental health crisis in order to avoid potential tragedy. With an understanding of how to respond appropriately, we can ensure that students can get the help they need in order to move forward with their lives. Educators should be equipped with training on how to manage crises and be able to recognize when a student may need extra support or resources so that they feel safe and supported at school. Additionally, by creating an environment where mental health is not stigmatized but instead is normalized within schools, we can ensure there are no barriers for those seeking help when facing a crisis.