I am just getting ready to enter my 11th year teaching junior high (holy cow) and I’ve had some realizations, over the last 2 years really, in terms of the mental health of my students. It seems as though there is an extraordinary number of kids these days suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress in general. But why now, and what can I do about it? I teach Math and Science. If I taught LA or Health I could pull in connections more easily, however, I think I need to figure out a way to talk about what I’ve seen many of them battle for the last 2+ years.
I had many kids last year on medication for their anxiety and others simply missing time because they could just not get themselves to school. Kids are talking to counselors and therapists. What more can I do? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out because it does affect their attendance, their grades, and their well-being in general. I want all of my kids to be healthy and happy!
I will be teaching grades 7-9 in September – Math and Science. Grade 7 is kind of a rite of passage in our school because the students start to “get marks” and in grade 9 they have a provincial assessment in Math that counts toward their grade. Two potentially stressful years. Anyhow, I’ve been trying to brainstorm how I may attempt to deal with/help the students who battle anxiety and depression on a daily basis. I know that bullying, social media issues, poverty and other home issues, peer pressure, as well as school pressures are all acting on these kids, each day.
I have been thinking about starting some kind of health related group in the school next year and teach them how to recognize anxiety and depression in themselves and in their friends, promote talking about mental health around the school – it’s not something to keep quiet about etc. I don’t know if there’ll be any interest, of course, but I think if I can brand it in a “cool” and useful way there may be buy in. I just feel sad for these kids and at a loss when I see their empty chairs, because they are once more absent. Many teachers in the province where I teach see this as an issue in their schools, but nothing seems to be happening in terms of support, top down. I feel like it needs to start, and it needs to start now. I’m not sure what this will look like or if it will fizzle out before it begins – if the kids aren’t into it – it’s dead and I’ll have to move on.
Would anyone care to partner with this initiative to brainstorm ideas? Share information (top ten causes of teen stress) or inspirational videos (ways to handle peer pressure) for example? Does anyone have a program like this in their school? I don’t know if I see it as weekly or bi-weekly, at lunch or after school etc. What I do know is that one day a year or even a week in the year, where the school talks about mental health, is not enough to battle what our kids are dealing with. I don’t know why so many are on medication or what the real catalyst for these changes has been. What I do know, is that it is very real and it’s time that we step up and try to help our kids help themselves.