Tag Archives: mental health education

Mental Health Education and Way of Life Education

Last week, I (Clive) talked about the connection between general way of life education and career education. I believe there is a similar link with mental health education, which Ontario teachers today are strongly encouraged to engage in. A recent Toronto Star article on mental health education noted that around twenty percent of Ontario school students have mental health problems. It then went on to claim that the life learning these students need would also greatly benefit the other eighty percent of students!

From the teachers’ point of view, this insight has significant implications. It means that instead of constantly singling out students with mental health needs – thus adding to teachers’ workload and also running the danger of labeling students, reducing their self-esteem, and undermining class community – teachers can implement way of life education in the normal course of teaching and classroom life and so help all their students.

Increasing the feasibility of mental health teaching in this way is sorely needed, given the growing demands on teachers, the continuing cut-backs in special education funding, and the increasing integration of “special needs” students into mainstream classes. As Kate Phillippo says in her excellent 2015 book Advisory in Urban High Schools, there is today considerable “under-the-table expansion of teachers’ responsibilities,” especially “to provide social-emotional support” to students (p. 148).

While there is a limit to how much assistance regular classroom teachers can give to students with mental health challenges, supporting all students in developing a sound approach to life can help everyone, including those with special needs. For example, students who lack motivation for school work need a better general sense of where academic achievement fits into their life, now and in the future; and students dealing with bullying would benefit from greater general understanding of when and how to stand up to other people. Along these lines, Phillippo (2015) envisages classroom teachers taking on a broad “advisory” role that includes fostering “life skills development” (p. 154) and working to promote “student wellness” in general (p. 164).

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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.