Children’s Mental Health is a hot topic in our schools these days. We are increasingly aware that we simply can NOT effectively teach students who are in a state of crisis.
And many of our students ARE in a state of crisis.
Educators can feel helpless in supporting students with mental health challenges. In a world of instant gratification, it can feel like an uphill battle to get to the roots of the problem (on top of our lofty goals of covering curriculum, using effective assessment, building relationships etc. etc. etc.) If this sounds, familiar, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Connecting via social media can help.
Today’s children are at a higher risk for depression than any previous generation. Almost one in 10 children will experience a major depressive episode by the time they are 14 years old, and almost one in five will experience a major depressive episode before graduating from high school. The good news is, there is apparently something that parents and educators can do to decrease the likelihood that children will succumb to this statistic.
Research suggests that teaching children to think and problem-solve a certain way works to decrease the likelihood that children will become depressed. A team of psychologists developed an innovative school-based program which basically taught children how to be optimistic. Specifically, children learned to identify the negative beliefs they hold about themselves, others and the world, and then learn how to replace their pessimistic beliefs with more positive ones. It was much like a preventative form of cognitive behavioral therapy.
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WHAT THIS MEANS:
Our own learning as educators is at the centre of good pedagogy. When we model lifelong learning, we demonstrate not only that we are not the source & keepers of all information, but that we are problem-solvers as well.
When we model positive speech and a growth mindset- ESPECIALLY through explicit wording of our own weakness and strengths- we foster the opportunity for our students to do the same.
We do NOT have to give up curriculum focus or other good pedagogical strategies… but we also cannot afford to ignore the mental health needs of our students.
Connecting the dots… slowly… intentionally… we have more than a fighting chance to do it all.