Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders in the Classroom
Teachers may be among the first to witness the early warning signs of mental illness in their students. With the opportunity to observe their social and educational interactions on a regular basis, educators serve as a reliable and critical part of their school’s mental health awareness efforts.
A compassionate staff member will likely be the first one to refer a student to our school-based mental health counseling services. It is extremely likely that a teacher will have contact with several students who are severely impaired or in distress due to a mental health condition. Studies indicate that 1 in 5 teenagers in the United States will experience a mental disorder severe enough to impact their daily activities.
7 Warning Signs of Mental Illness in Students
If you or another teacher witness one or more of these warning signs in a student, discuss the situation with your school-based mental health clinician.
- Mood changes featuring sadness or withdrawal which damage relationships and/or last longer than two weeks.
- Intense feelings of fear, anger, sadness, or euphoria which seem out of proportion to the situation.
- Drastic changes in behavior or personality, especially engaging in dangerous behaviors such as fighting or substance abuse.
- Difficulty concentrating, being consistently distracted, distant, unresponsive, or disconnected.
- Unexplained weight changes, frequent vomiting, repeated bathroom visits, chronic headaches, or stomach problems.
- Self-injury or self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning.
- Mention of suicidal thoughts or ideas.
Common Mental Health Disorders in Teens
Promoting mental health awareness and reporting the early warning signs will help Thrive’s professionally trained clinicians diagnose these types of disorders:
- Anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and phobias.
- Behavioral disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder, and Oppositional-Defiant Disorder (ODD).
- Eating disorders, which include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
- Substance use disorders, which often co-occur with mental health issues, sometimes as an attempt at self-medication.
- Mood and personality disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) undiagnosed in early childhood may interfere with the ability to communicate and interact with others.
- Psychotic disorders include schizophrenia and other disorders which cause hallucinations and delusions, sometimes resembling substance abuse.
- Trauma and stress-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may develop after witnessing or experiencing any type of traumatic event or abuse.
What Is the Teacher’s Role in Supporting Student Mental Health?
While educators are not responsible for diagnosing and treating mental health disorders in the classroom, they play a key role in creating a healthy environment, recognizing warning signs, and sharing information.
Teachers offer vital support by:
- Promoting emotional and social competency and resilience.
- Teaching problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Reinforcing positive behaviors.
- Encouraging students to help and support each other.
- Enabling discreet access to school-based mental health supports.
Thrive Guides the Next Steps in Counseling
School-based mental health counseling from Thrive promotes the social and emotional development of students. A qualified school-based mental health clinician will work directly with students, parents, and teachers to identify when to intervene and what counseling or treatment options will provide effective support in the least restrictive environment.
Early detection of a mental health disorder is the most effective way to offer therapeutic strategies that will help the student overcome this temporary challenge and achieve their full potential. Contact us today to take advantage of professional school-based mental health counseling from Thrive!