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Integrating Mental Health into the School Curriculum

Updated: May 3, 2023

Mental health is an important aspect of overall wellness that cannot be ignored. It is alarming to learn that so many young adults struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. According to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 25% of individuals between the ages of 18-25 deal with some form of mental health disorder. Schools have a vital role to play in addressing this issue. Integrating mental health into the school curriculum can help students deal with mental health issues and provide them with the support they need to succeed.


Why integrating mental health into school curriculum matters


Mental health education within schools is crucial because so many young people are experiencing mental health troubles. When not addressed correctly, these issues can lead to academic failure, social isolation, substance abuse, and other harmful outcomes. However, a proactive approach that emphasizes wellness and addresses risk factors for mental health disorders can prevent negative outcomes. Early intervention helps prevent more severe symptoms from developing, and it can provide students with the resilience necessary for positive relationships, academic success, and career fulfillment.


Mental health initiatives in schools


School-based prevention initiatives have shown effective mental health promotion. The following initiatives should be added to the school curriculum:


1. Psychoeducation

Daily classes that teach mental health and wellness can help students identify symptoms of mental health issues, promote self-awareness, and provide support for students struggling with emotional issues and emotional boundaries. School administrators, social workers, and counselors should develop a department based initiative that formulates a professional mental health curriculum that address the mental/emotional needs of students in all grade levels.


2. Psychological service

Schools can provide psychological services if students need professional help. Schools should have more access to mental health referrals and create broad-based counseling departments that support departmental training, assessments and referrals. Schools that prioritize psychological resources recognize that academic success is just one piece of the puzzle, and that a healthy and supportive atmosphere is crucial for the well-being of students and staff alike.


3. Open communication

Communication that is open and honest with students can help provide access to mental health support services, thereby reducing the stigma of receiving help. Helping students in crisis today is a necessity and an open door policy of communication with counseling based practices could ease the emotional burden of students and prevent violence on campus. Communication allows students and staff to become aware of issues before they arise.


4. Mental health awareness

Organize mental health awareness days and provide opportunities for increased learning and reflection about mental health topics. Mental health awareness days in schools provide students, parents, and community members the opportunity to access community resources and vital information designed to save lives and stop the impending violence that exists in the school environment.






5. Safe environments

Offer safe spaces that students can use to deal with emotions while working through issues in the school environment. Safe spaces are key so students recognize they can confide in qualified adults who are trained to handling emotional crisis. Crisis management can sustain and offset students dealing with depression or violent tendencies.


6. Partnership with community organizations

Partner with community organizations that help provide necessary mental health services to students. Community resources serve as an essential tool for schools to enhance their operations and impact on the education, overall well-being, and development of their students. Such resources can include businesses, non-profits, and private agencies, and their involvement is critical as they provide the necessary support and guidance that schools need to succeed.


Integrating mental health into schools is an important preventative measure to help students address mental health issues that they might be struggling with. This can provide students with the assurance that there is always someone who is ready to listen and offer assistance when needed. Overall, integrating mental health into the curriculum is an important preventative measures and may provide a healthy and supportive learning environment for students and staff.


By prioritizing a mental health curriculum and psychological resources, schools demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their students and their community and lay the foundation for success in the years ahead.



Louisa Mastromarino is a Licensed Spiritual Health Coach and certified counselor educator. She is recognized in the publications Careers from the Kitchen Table by Raven Blair Davis and My Amazing Journey with the Divine by Beverly Pokorski. She is also the author of various publications including Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Washington, D.C., Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to New York City, Spifford Max and the Cycle Pups Go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Brizzley Bear Loves Poetry. Her publications and artwork can be found at LouisaMastro.com.







References


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Mental Health and Academic Success. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/success.htm


National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2018). Mental Health in Schools: A Guide to Resources. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Teens-and-Young-Adults/Schools-and-Colleges/Mental-Health-in-Schools-A-Guide-to-Resources.


National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Mental Disorders Among Children. Retrieved from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-disorders-in-children.shtml.

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