What can we do to better integrate mental health into education? It begins with us. For those of us with children, we must ask ourselves whether we’ve been neglecting our own, personal wellbeing. We should also consider the idea that we may have negative attitudes that contribute to the stigma that surrounds mental health. Once we become more comfortable with the idea that mental health and emotional wellbeing is a priority, it will be much easier to see it being fully integrated into schools. We should also ask our children questions, ensure that we provide them with the attention and care that they need, and when we notice signs of impaired mental health (whether it be our own or our children’s) we should make it a priority to seek help. This can be a visit to the primary care physician, it may be seeking a therapist, or simply getting a massage.
Also, we should all go to town-hall meetings, parent teacher conferences, and school meetings. Ask your child’s school whether they have a licensed child psychologist on school premises, and if not, how they handle mental health and crisis situations. Look into the school legislation being passed in your area. Asking, questions and showing concern is a great start. Important legislation such as the Johhny Gosch Bill and our National Amber Alert system all began as a result of parents speaking on behalf of their children.
For educators, research is literally a click away. Explore common ways to integrate mental health into your school day. Learn the common signs of ailments such as depression and anxiety and ensure that you act as allies to your students. Also, address your own personal biases with mental health, and the things that lead to it (e.g. poverty, abuse, violence) and advocate for all your students. Again, the changes that need to take place in education will always begin with us, the lay people who take the time to act.