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When Teachers Go Above and Beyond to Support Students' Mental Health

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We all can remember that teacher or supervisor from middle school, high school or elementary school who went above and beyond.

That person gave you the time of day outside academics and class schedules. They were also your cheerleader when it came to mental breakdowns and self-doubt. I’m talking about that staff member who let you eat lunch with them when your friends abandoned you. Does anyone ring a bell for you?

For me it is my high school academic counselor. On Instagram I wrote a post thanking her for all the support and encouragement she gave me. Without her constant support and willingness to put aside time to give me pep talks during my emotional breakdowns, I do not know whether I would be alive today. She is a prime example of what it means to make a major impact on a student’s life. I only hope many teachers can learn from her and her actions.

Essentially this all got me thinking… do all the students know that their teachers or academic counselors can be a great support system for them even beyond the classroom? Or are we just assuming that they know?

Just the other day, I was picking up my brother from school and I asked him if they have any discussions about mental health at school?

He answered “well in psychology class we do.”

I replied, “I mean outside the classroom. Do you know of the resources you have at school in case of a emotional or mental breakdown? Do you know that you can go to your academic counselor or a faculty member when you feel out of place, and they can be a support system for you outside your family and friends?”

He replied, “I think the students know in the back of their minds, but no, it’s not really talked about up front.”

My heart sank. Because it wasn’t really talked about upfront when I was in high school either. I had to search for it. Luckily I found safety and trust in my academic counselor to be able to confide in her.

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Not everyone is as lucky. Some students need more of a push and reassurance to support their mental health. Teenagers are living in a culture in which wearing your emotions on your sleeve is frowned upon. We live in a society where everything seems like a competition. Students continue to be pressured to focus strictly on exams and advanced placement classes to get into that well-known university. Their sports and extra curricular activities is a do or die reality for them.

Although these can be great things to focus on, it is important we are careful that it doesn’t evolve into them suppressing what they may be feeling through out the day: such as experiencing bullying, feeling left out, depression, anxiety, friendship drama etc. This can all pile up and leads to more teenagers and young adults today dying by suicide because of feeling overwhelmed and alone.

It is terrifying that suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. Plus four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

I say all of this as a wake up call, as someone who would not have survived middle school or high school if it wasn’t for certain faculty members who went beyond their job description to make sure my mental health and wellness was a priority. I only hope every teenage can experience that for themselves as well.

Follow this journey on SpokenByHer

Getty image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: July 3, 2020
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