The pandemic has disrupted day-to-day life for everyone, including students. Post-pandemic research suggests that more children than ever are battling anxiety and depression, with UNICEF warning that children and young people may feel the impact of COVID-19 for many years.
As students and teachers alike return to the classrooms, it’s important to consider the signs of mental health concerns in children, as well as what steps to take when dealing with these concerns.
Talk about it
It’s important to use your classroom as a place to break the stigma surrounding mental health. If you provide your students with a healthy space to openly talk about mental health issues, it will make it easier for them to come forward when they are struggling.
Talking about mental health and the types of feelings they may encounter will give them the language and confidence they need to talk if they need to. This can be beneficial to older children who might experience these thoughts and feelings as a result of puberty, as well as any child struggling with mental health issues.
There are also many resources that you can provide your students with to aid in their well-being. The Princes Trust provides a list of charities that help young people, which you can use as a tool in your classroom.
Spot behaviour changes
When faced with mental health issues, pupils may display unusual behaviour. Getting to know your students will help you recognise changes in the way they behave within the classroom but these changes can often be subtle.
Changes in behaviour may include:
- Low self-esteem
- Irritability or sudden anger
- Signs of lack of sleep
- Frequent absences
- Mentions of suicide
- Reckless behaviour
- Changes in their academics
Knowing your students’ personalities will help you identify what is ‘normal’ for each individual. If you recognise any of these signs, you can quickly provide support and if needed raise the issue with another member of staff.
How can you help?
Your school will most likely have a procedure for supporting children that are struggling. Speak to your mentor or Head of Department to have an idea of what your school’s policy is and what steps you can take to help.
If you think a student needs to talk to someone, make time for them to express their feelings and offer a listening ear. This will give you a better insight to their situation and you can make a judgement on whether they will need additional support. If you are seriously concerned about a student’s well-being, always confide in a senior member of staff.
Finally, in order to help and support your students, you should look after your own well-being. Read our blog about Mindfulness in the Classroom to help maintain a healthy mindset and provide your students with healthy coping mechanisms.