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  • Mental Health Training For Educators: Could it be the missing piece of the puzzle in the mental health crisis among students?

    ( AI Assisted Blog Post)

    The mental health crisis in schools is escalating, leaving educators and policymakers grappling with the best approach to support students. School counselors are specifically trained to handle mental health issues. They provide a safe space for students to discuss their problems, offer professional guidance, and create tailored support plans. Increasing the number of counselors ensures that students have direct access to mental health professionals who can dedicate their time to student well-being.

    The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of 1 counselor to 250 students. The national average for the years 2022 to 2023 was 385 to 1. With the growing mental health crisis, is that enough?

    Several studies have shown that smaller ratios support increases in standardized test performance, attendance, GPA, and graduation rates, as well as decreased disciplinary infractions. 

    Additional studies have shown that lower ratios also increase the likelihood of students having conversations with school counselors regarding college-going and postsecondary plans. Better student-to-councilor ratios have shown to lead to improvement in student outcomes, especially in terms of improving attendance, decreasing disciplinary infractions, and increasing high school graduation rates.

    Research shows there are many counselors wanting to take up jobs as school counselors, but schools do not have enough budget to hire more. So, that leaves us with the question: How can we fill this gap until proper budget laws are passed that allow schools to hire more counselors?

    The way teachers handle students, communicate, and approach them can have a substantial effect on their mental health and create an environment of acceptance and accommodation for those struggling with anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges. 

    Teachers and administrators are on the front lines, interacting with students daily. Many of them have a strong connection with the students and are directly aware of the challenges the students are facing. Training them in mental health awareness can help them identify early signs of distress in students and intervene promptly. This approach fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment where mental health is integrated into everyday interactions, thus reducing stigma and normalizing seeking help.

    A majority of mental illnesses start between ages 14 and 24 when teens and young adults are in school, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. Educators can take up a huge role in helping identify students who may be struggling. They can show empathy and use their connections to encourage students to visit school counselors or discuss not just academic but also emotional concerns with their parents, thus helping the students get help for their emotional and mental health needs in a timely fashion. 

    By sharing their own stories of the emotional challenges they may have faced growing up, educators can normalize conversations surrounding emotional well-being, thus reducing the stigma on mental health.

    Alison Malmon was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania when her brother Brian, who was attending Columbia University, started showing signs of mental illness and died by suicide. She, along with her friends, created a student-to-student model and formed a student group then known as “Open Minds”. Today, it is a nonprofit organization renamed “Active Minds”(, whose goal is to raise awareness of mental health and provide advocacy and outreach for student mental health. In their guide on the subject, they outline some tips for educators that include the following:

    • Normalizing the need for help by including mental health resources in the syllabi, checking in with individual students, and sharing with your class that they can talk to you if they are struggling.

    • Actively listening (potentially using Active Minds’ Validate – Appreciate – Refer method).

    • Embedding courses with well-being practices (examples: starting class with a break or meditation, setting deadlines at times that encourage students to get enough sleep, assigning self-care as homework).

    • Practicing self-care and seeking resources when needed (examples: setting boundaries, prioritizing their own well-being, disconnecting).

    Educators can be taught to differentiate between normal growing pains or emotional reactions and concerning behaviors or patterns indicative of more serious issues.

     “Understanding Mental Health”(( is a great resource for educators in New Jersey to gain awareness on how to identify early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness in students. 

    Being an educator in the current age of technology and social media can be draining and may result in compassion fatigue or secondary (vicarious) trauma. Hence, educators need to take active steps to care for their own mental health needs, thus setting a good precedent for their students. 

    If you are an educator, you can visit the same page(( to learn how to manage your own stress and trauma while supporting your students. This page provides resources for supporting students in the classroom, including tools on understanding and working with childhood trauma and training on topics like managing emotions, suicide prevention, and mental health first aid.

    The “Trainings & Resources for Parents and Guardians” page is also a very helpful site for having conversations about mental illness and stress with your students and can be used as a place to refer parents who may need additional support.

    Thus, there is no doubt that a combined approach may be the most effective to ensure our students’ mental health is preserved. While more counselors can provide specialized care, teachers and educators can offer immediate support and help in identifying students who are at risk or showing signs of mental illness, thus creating a mentally healthy school culture. By integrating professional care with everyday support, we can create a more resilient and supportive educational environment.



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