Mental Health And School Safety
Mental Health And School Safety
Michael Dorn and Sonayia Shepherd (School Safety Analysts) gives expert video advice on: How does mental health impact school safety?; How can schools promote mental health?; How should mental health issues be addressed in schools without a school counselor? and more...
How does mental health impact school safety?
Mental health impacts school safety in a very significant way. For example, in the aftermath of a crisis event, having the emotional support for students minimizes the chances that they may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also, having a crisis intervention team, which is the mental health component in the school, can also be helpful for times like test taking, to help students reduce stress in those events. So it's twofold, even in a crisis, as well as day to day activities in the school, mental health is paramount.
How should mental health issues be addressed in schools without a school counselor?
If a school does not have a school counsellor, then it is very important for the schools to reach out to the community mental health board. In every community there is a mental health board, center, or organization that has a charge in helping students. Often, we see in the community that it is a direct reflection of the school and vice versa. The school is a direct reflection of the community. Reaching out into the community and pulling those mental health people into the school is a good way, not only to impact school safety, but to also get the community involved in what the school is doing.
What are the signs of depression in youth?
Signs of depression in youth varies by age. For younger children, usually elementary to middle school age children, we see regressive behaviours of depressed students. Things like bed-wetting and thumb-sucking. In high school age kids we see symptoms commonly found in adults such as wanting to sleep, fatigue, sometimes insomnia, giving away possessions, articulating thoughts of unhappy or sad feelings, sometimes articulating thoughts of suicide (verbally or in writing).
What should I do if I suspect a student is depressed?
If there is any type of suspect that a student is depressed, then an administrator or a school counsellor needs to be contacted immediately. Also, the involvement of the parent or parents needs to happen immediately. There needs to be a quick response to it, and don't ignore any signs of depression.
What should I do if I suspect a student is suicidal?
One thing that needs to be noted very clearly is that if someone is articulating a plan to harm themselves or others, then someone needs to be told about that. This can be either an adult, a mental health person, or an administrator, but don't ignore those signs. If someone is saying, "I haven't been feeling very well and I've been thinking about killing myself," then that person needs to definitely report that. Don't feel bound by any type of confidentiality rules. Never promise a suicidal person that what you say will be kept amongst us, because in a situation like that, confidentiality literally goes out the door. Someone must be told and they must be told immediately.
How does stress affect school safety?
Stress, particularly traumatic stress can affect school safety and it's important to know that someone is experiencing traumatic stress may have symptoms of, feeling fatigue or may have insomnia, they're not sleeping, they may articulate, their stress, “I'm feeling very stressed” or they may say things like “I'm freaking out", other signs might be someone what we call having a spiritual reaction just asking, “Why would God put all these on me"? or questioning their faith or maybe a student going to a teacher saying “you know what, I'm feeling like I'm having butterflies in my stomach and they're not going away” or “I can't sleep at night” or “I'm falling asleep in class and I don't know why” things like that. A traumatic stress a person who is having traumatic stress reactions doesn't necessarily have to have gone through an event. They could have just seen it on television or have exposure by hearing about an event. So we've got to be careful in the classrooms and in the aftermath of especially how you publicize school shootings, we have to be careful about making sure that we're turning the television off and that we're not exposing especially young kids to the sights and images that may be on television after a traumatic event because traumatic stress reactions may be exhibited in students who the teachers may think, they haven't gone through anything but they may have seen it on television the night before at their parent's house.
How can schools develop plans to deal with stress?
When schools are developing their crisis recovery plans, they can talk about traumatic stress reactions. They can go on websites and find information about traumatic stress and develop handouts and materials to pass out to the parents, to pass out to teachers. Teachers need to be educated about what to look for. Teachers need to know that if you have a child who is normally an active participant in the classroom and all of a sudden they're not, all of a sudden they are falling to sleep, those are traumatic stress reactions. Teachers need to be aware of that. Parents need to be aware of what to look for. Holding campaigns and involving the parents and the students is a good first step.