High school teachers and guidance counselors play a critical role in the lives of their students. They are often the first to pick up the early warning signs of mental illness and are positioned to provide support that students can use when they are experiencing distress.¹
Adolescence is a time of dramatic physical, emotional, intellectual, and social change. Youth feel pressure to succeed at school, at home, and in social groups. Research shows that one in five teenagers have experienced a major mental disorder.¹ Additionally, mental health issues are likely to emerge between the ages of 16 and 24.¹ Depression, stress, suicide, and eating disorders are issues of concern for teenagers while fear, embarrassment, peer pressure, and stigma are barriers to getting help.¹
High school is a key setting to provide support for youth who are struggling with mental health issues. The effect that an illness will have on a young person’s learning varies greatly. Some students may need to take time off school while others are may be able to continue normally with their studies.
As a teacher, it is important that you recognize mental illnesses and report them and share them with colleges and councilors. It is also important to contact the student’s parents and the principle. It is also important to respect the confidentiality of students with mental health issues. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, some students are afraid that they will be treated differently by classmates or teachers.¹ Furthermore, make sure to let the student know that you have shared their mental illness with other faculty members.
Some classroom accommodations for mental illness can include preferential seating, allowing students to bring food and drink to the classroom, and have a note taker record classroom lectures. Some accommodations with assignments include making substitute assignments, giving advanced notice of assignments, and providing extra time for assignments.¹