TEACHER CORNER | Mental health and education

By Michael C. Delfino
Teacher I
Sagrada National High School

With the apparent rise of mental health problems among students, those in the education sector must do their best to promote mental health awareness and wellbeing.

At the frontline, as always, are teachers, who serve not just as sources of knowledge and information, but also as the students’ second parents.

Mental health, first and foremost, refers not merely to an absence of mental illness; it is a state of wellbeing that allows people to meet and surpass their potentials, cope with everyday stresses, and connect well to the community.

Promoting mental health and wellbeing in schools, therefore, do not only protect the development of mental disorders, but also helps learners flourish and be resilient in their academic life. It also provides them with confidence and skills, and alerts students and their families on whether intervention by psychologists or psychiatrists is necessary.

Promoting mental health requires the cooperation of the entire school community—the teachers, the learners, the parents and guardians, the school staff, and even the local leaders and other community members.

Together, they must work to provide programs that develop social and emotional skills, and support for those with additional or special needs.

They must further foster a safe environment where students feel positive self-regard, a sense of purpose and responsibility, and develop healthy coping and problem-solving abilities.

Mental health awareness must also be integrated in the lessons, so that students feel that it is an important and natural part of one’s life.

Lessons, for example, may explicitly discuss ways on regulating emotions, developing empathy for others, collaborating with teams, and giving and handling criticism constructively.

It is also important to provide a comprehensive wellbeing program that considers the wellness not only of the students but also of the teachers. Teachers, many often forget, also suffer from many daily stressors, and thus should receive assistance in developing personal and social capabilities.

At the end of the day, mental health and wellbeing increases an individual’s opportunities in life, because it allows him or her to achieve his or her potentials and relate to others in an effective way.

Promoting mental health and wellness is thus in line with our overall goal of holistic education, and of developing lifelong learners.