Schools: Indispensible Allies to Mental Health
For most children (ideally, all children), schooling serves as their primary occupation. We cannot begin to discount the impact our schools play. Needless to say, educators and school personnel are indispensable allies to our children’s holistic well-being.
Jeannie Goulbourn, who lost her daughter to suicide, founded the Natasha Goulbourn foundation (NGF). NGF has brought in HOPE suicide crisis hotline in our country. She reportedly said; “suicide ranks third as cause of death among people ages 10 to 24. We can point to many reasons why suicide is highly prevalent on the youth. NAMI or the National Alliance for Mental Health aptly said that; “Schools provide a unique opportunity to identify and treat mental health conditions by serving students where they already are. School personnel play an important role in identifying the early warning signs of an emerging mental health condition and in linking students with effective services and supports.” NAMI is an organization located in Arlington Virginia serves as the United States’ largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Recently, a news story spoke of a teenager from the province of Antique, Philippines who reportedly committed suicide due to disappointment. Her mother, apparently did not allow the teenager to go with her to the town proper to get the money that her father. The father, who works as a construction worker in Boracay, sent money through a remittance center. The teenager wanted her mom to buy her a bag. The mother arrived home to see her daughter hanging dead.
Over the past years efforts to increase awareness on mental health have been more evident in our country. Legislators have been pushing for a Mental Health Act. Hospitals and NGO’s are working closely together too. Their recent efforts have them reaching out to schools. For one, the Medical City section of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from their Psychiatric Department is encouraging people to sound the SOS on suicide and self-harm in our schools by hosting an annual Teen Congress.
Activities as these, hope for bigger presence from educators. It is a dream for schools to actively join in the forum. As earlier mentioned, once a child starts to head off to school; they actually spend more of their active and conscious time in school than at home. Of course, we cannot argue that educating the children with proper values begins at home; but the school plays a very crucial role in the selfhood or identity of our children.
Throughout our children’s schooling years, our children build up their sense of competency. They are given tasks to perform and accomplish in both in school. Their performances is gauged and estimated to mean they are doing good or bad; whether they are smart of dumb. Naturally, a child will be able to observe and estimate himself on his own. Consequently, the peers’ judgment of his ability or inability becomes his measure of estimate too. Compounded by the adults’ (the teachers, neighbors and family) expressed estimate of how they are doing, our children builds up to capitalize that perceived competency. They begin to either feel they are unflagging and at par with what are expected, or they begin to feel that they are not. And their feelings of inferiority begin to be their estimate of themselves. It begins to be their perceived worth or self-esteem.
As they move towards adolescence, they will likely continue to explore and battle with their worthiness. The constancy of their previous perception of themselves will either strengthen their idea of who they are as an individual or make them question what they previously thought of themselves. That idea is regardless, of whether their estimate is good or bad making them a “great and cool kid” or the “wall-flower”. The continued tasks on both academic and social adaptation lend to be part of the estimation. The peer and adult approval or disapproval does the same.
The strong and well-founded identity, strengthened by supportive and caring environment is a factor strongly linked to mental health. Much of the formative experiences we all go through happen within the confines of our schools. Our educators’ awareness of mental health will not only play a crucial role. It makes them indispensable allies.