Mental Health Education in Teacher Education

Earlier this week I  (Yiola) participated in a Webinar on the teaching of mental health in teacher education. The webinar was called: Reading, Writing, Resiliency: A Briefing on the State of Teacher Education Toward Positive Mental Health.

This post is connected to Shelley’s recent post on Supporting Student Well-being through Mindfulness Practices as it looks closely at what Teacher Education programs are doing to prepare teachers to teach about Mental Health and Wellness.  It was interesting to read Shelley’s blog and learn about what she does and how mindfulness as a form of mental health practices are developed in her course on Special Education. I would love to hear what other teacher educators and classroom teachers do to promote and teach about well-being.

During the webinar I learned some interesting facts:

– parents are concerned and interested to learn more about in 2 key areas related to mental health education: 1) Abuse and its effects on mental health (bullying, emotional abuse, exclusion);  2) Health (depression, substance abuse)

– after (parents and) doctors, teachers are the next care professionals in line who are expected to address children’s mental health

– There is a gap between the strong perception of teachers responsibilities for addressing issues of mental health and their preparedness to do so

In a study conducted on mental health teaching in teacher education in Canada, over 400 courses in 66 teacher education programs were examined against 4 criteria. The 4 criteria were related to the following: course title, words in the course description, topics in the course outlines, practices and relationships. The findings showed that only 2 of the 400 courses met all 4 criteria for the inclusion of mental health learning; 23 courses met 3 of the 4 criteria, 84 courses met 2 of the criteria and 104 courses met just 1 criteria.   This finding suggests that there is very little by way of teaching mental health issues in teacher education programs.

From the study 5 recommendations were made: 1) all teacher education programs should include at least 1 course that focuses on fostering postive mental health and resiliency; 2) classroom management courses reflect proactive resiliency oriented strategies; 3) in-service opportunities need to be available to practicing classroom teachers; 4) provincial curriculum should identify outcomes for health education; and, 5) mental health and resiliency outcomes should be in grades K-12 curriculum.

The webinar was helpful in outlining where we stand today in teacher education and mental health teaching.  I am very keen on thinking about how to move forward in teacher education programming.  Mental health and resiliency content can and should in included in many courses including but not limited to: all curriculum areas (i.e. literacy, social studies, math, health and physical education); special education, methods (i.e. classroom environment, classroom management, collaborative practices).  There needs to be a shift in foci, moving beyond the traditional Health and Physical Education curriculum (i.e. the Healthy Living strand) into a more comprehensive way of thinking about well-being and resiliency.

 

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