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Addressing Mental Health in Schools

Children are much more vulnerable to various adverse effects of the environment than adults. Therefore, meeting the needs of a younger generation in the psychological sphere is a crucial element of their successful growth and development. A school period is a time when many boys and girls face considerable mental issues, such as bullying, self-perception, peer pressure, and others. Frequently, the school environment is the trigger of negative emotions. However, at the same time, schools can and should become the settings in which children’s psychological issues would be resolved. Teachers, parents, school administrations, and local authorities need to realize the utmost importance of addressing mental health in schools.

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Psychological health is a problem of high concern among adolescents. The majority of psychological issues have their onset during one’s school-age (Liddle et al. 93). Nearly 14% of youths aged between 12 and 17 are reported to experience a mental health problem at least once a year. At the same time, only 65% of them address someone to receive help (Liddle et al. 93). The prevalence of psychiatric disorders among school-aged individuals is a growing concern not only in the USA but also globally (O’Reilly et al. 647). Annually, nearly 10-20% of children and adolescents have a mental disorder of some kind, and this number is constantly growing. Furthermore, research findings indicate that about half of adults with mental disorders experienced them earlier at some point, typically, before they turned 15 (O’Reilly et al. 647). These numbers serve as the rationale for paying more attention to schoolchildren’s mental health.

Mental health promotion interventions should be conducted in schools because these institutions serve as a perfect basis for this purpose. Schools are viewed as “pervasive environments” (O’Reilly 648) and “the most critical” venues for promoting the psychiatric health of children and adolescents (Benningfield and Stephan xv). Researchers argue that it is easier to identify mental illnesses at schools and, as a result, it is possible to address them promptly. U.S. children attend school for many years during their developmental period, which makes educational establishments “an unparalleled location for identification and implementation of mental health supports” (Benningfield and Stephan xv). Therefore, apart from focusing on children’s academic achievement, schools should pay attention to learners’ mental health as a crucial indicator of achievement.

Historically, children’s and adolescents’ mental health issues have been addressed at schools with the help of child psychologists. However, it was typically the case that only individual children’s needs were met, based on their behavior’s impact on the process of schooling. Meanwhile, school officials must understand that they are responsible not only for teaching children but also for “producing well-rounded, well-adjusted citizens prepared to live happy, meaningful lives and to contribute successfully to society” (Benningfield and Stephan xv). Benningfield and Stephan argue that it is not enough to engage psychiatrists when schoolchildren become ill or when they have complex mental issues to address (xv). Rather, it is necessary to apply psychiatric practice at various stages, informing children and adolescents about the opportunity to receive help whenever they need it. Integration of schooling and psychological health promotion is, therefore, a prerequisite of children’s successful development not only in learning but also in social accommodation.

One of the best ways to address mental health at schools is through sport. According to Liddle et al., many sports organizations realize their potential in promoting good mental health (93). Taking part in sports activities during school years has a positive effect not only on children’s physical health but also on their social, cognitive, and psychological development (Liddle et al. 93). Frequently, mental disorders are closely associated with one’s physical health, including such issues as cardiovascular disease and obesity. Children suffering from excessive weight have enough problems already, but their peers can exacerbate the situation by making fun of obese classmates and causing them psychological discomfort. Therefore, school-based sports organizations have the potential both to boost children’s self-confidence and enhance their physical health.

Another viable option to implement at school is mindfulness interventions. As Carsley et al. note, children’s wellbeing and mental health can improve considerably with the help of this approach (693). Mindfulness interventions have the potential to relieve depression and anxiety in school students. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the act of nonjudgmentally and purposefully paying attention to and being aware of present moment experiences (qtd. in Carsley et al. 693). The inclusion of mindfulness interventions in school programs has the potential to improve students’ attendance problems, decrease dropout rates, and enhance academic performance.

Whereas schools are institutions primarily aimed at giving knowledge to children, these institutions should not neglect their potential to affect children’s mental health. Schools may serve as places where children’s mental issues emerge and develop, but they can also function as locations where psychological problems can be prevented and mitigated. It is, therefore, crucial to address mental health at schools since the timely identification of problems contributes to searching for appropriate treatment measures faster and gaining the best outcomes for children and adolescents.

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Works Cited

Benningfield, Margaret M., and Sharon Hoover Stephan. “Integrating Mental Health into Schools to Support Student Success.” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, vol. 24, no. 2, 2015, pp. xv-xvii.

Carsley, Dana, et al. “Effectiveness of Mindfulness Interventions for Mental Health in Schools: A Comprehensive Meta-analysis.” Mindfulness, vol. 9, no. 3, 2018, pp. 693-707.

Liddle, Sarah K., et al. “Addressing Mental Health Through Sport: A Review of Sporting Organizations’ Websites.” Early Intervention in Psychiatry, vol. 11, no. 2, 2016, pp. 93-103.

O’Reilly, Michelle, et al. “Review of Mental Health Promotion Interventions in Schools.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 53, no. 7, 2018, pp. 647-662.

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