What to Do When a Student Is Exhibiting Signs of Mental Illness

We all are looking for ways to help people struggling with mental illness. It may be that we are looking out for our siblings and keeping an eye out for any problems they might have. It could be a friend of ours who has been opening up about their feelings and thoughts. We find it’s second-nature to be there for them and support them. When people we love are struggling, we find it easy enough to be supportive. We have known them for a long time and don’t feel uncomfortable broaching difficult topics with them. That is not always the case, however. Consider the case of an educator with a student. As an educator, you are held to specific standards and rules. There are very clear lines that you cannot cross. For better or for worse, this is how it is. Teachers have to be particularly careful when interacting with students, especially when it is regarding their health. No matter what your relationship is with the child, you have to walk the line of being supportive without being intrusive. It is not a teacher’s job to diagnose, analyze, or offer any treatment. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps or actions you can take to help your students and help steer them on the best course. 

Watch for Symptoms

Keeping an eye out for the symptoms of mental illness is a great place to start. Signs of mental illness can include sadness, being withdrawn, a decline in their behavior or grades, difficulty concentrating, and more. As with anyone in our lives, we can spot these symptoms as they come and keep them in mind. We don’t have to initiate or engage them in any way at first. Just monitor their progress, or lack thereof, and keep it in mind. 

Teach Your Students to Be Aware

You can also teach mental health awareness in a general way. Don’t engage the student one-on-one with your concerns, but teach the class about it. This can include teaching them the symptoms of mental illness and how they can find help. Encourage them to speak up about what they are going through and let them know that they have a safe place with you. This goes for your fellow teachers as well. You can spread awareness to other faculty so that they can also know what to look for and what to be concerned about. Of course, you should always clear this with your school’s administration first. You don’t want to get into trouble by teaching something that they don’t want you to. It is definitely a challenging terrain to navigate, but it’s always worth the effort. 

Take Initiative, Be a Leader

If your actions to raise awareness are successful, you could even start your own programs to help students with their mental health. These programs can be aimed at promoting their healthy development, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Continue to teach about the signs of a mental illness’s development. Then, you can explore the proper and appropriate ways to intervene and express your concerns. 

If things get worse and you are afraid for the student, you should speak up. Never shy away from standing up for a student and showing them that you care. It may be challenging at first, but in the long run, it could save their life. Make sure you are doing the right thing and not crossing a line. Consider starting by going to the administration or talking with a school psychiatrist about it. These are people who are trained for these kinds of situations, and they can offer you advice and guidance on how to best handle the situation. 

The most important thing is to foster and nurture a healthy, safe environment for students to feel loved in. Teenagers are already full of fear. Add mental illness to perpetual adolescent malaise, and it’s easy to understand why young people act out. But if we can give them a safe place away from home, then we can give them a fighting chance. They may need a safe haven to seek the positive affirmation they are lacking at home. They could be coming to you as a mentor, and they could be looking to you for an example. You don’t have to directly address their problems, but by being a caring and understanding adult in their life, you can make a difference.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with anxiety or mental illness, do not hesitate to contact the team here at True Recovery. Our program, founded in 2014, is built around finding what’s best for you to overcome your addiction. Our facility is located in Newport Beach, California, with our supportive housing located close to our campus in Costa Mesa. Take advantage of the local beaches, nature preserves, and Orange County community while we fight for you. Contact us at (866) 399-6528 or [email protected]