Educators play a key role in shaping students’ academic journeys. Aside from knowledge acquisition, the classroom experience often affects how students navigate the outside world. Students who feel unsupported or unsuccessful in school may develop core beliefs about themselves that extend to their social lives. As educators, we must create learning environments that empower students to be their best selves.
Creating a supportive learning environment while maintaining healthy boundaries requires a delicate balance. Below, we summarize some of the key points from author Natasha Devon’s Education Summit ’23 video on supporting student mental health. The video—which you can watch on-demand—delves into the critical intersection of student mental health and boundary setting. After watching the video, use these takeaways to help your students thrive emotionally and academically.
6 Key Takeaways from the Video
1. Prioritize Your Own Well-Being
To support students’ mental health, it’s important to prioritize your own well-being by engaging in physical activity, creativity, or relaxation for at least an hour each day. Start with small, sustainable habits like five minutes of stress relief and gradually increase the time. If you don’t already have a therapist, consider finding one with a similar cultural or racial background. Identifying with your therapist can increase trust and understanding in a therapeutic relationship because mental health issues can manifest differently in different communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community.
2. Abandon the Need for Constant Happiness
Good mental health isn’t about being happy all the time. Constant happiness can actually hide deeper issues. When it comes to supporting students’ mental health and your own, recognize that real well-being involves a range of emotions. Instead of aiming for constant happiness, create an environment where students feel comfortable discussing their feelings, both positive and challenging. This helps them build resilience and healthy ways to cope.
3. Know the Mental Health Risks Students Face
Women are often misdiagnosed with depression when seeking medical help for physical pain or hormonal issues, while men are at higher risk of addiction and suicide due to societal expectations of masculinity. Knowing gender-specific challenges can be useful, but it’s also important to recognize that mental health manifests uniquely and is influenced by a complex interplay of biological, psychological, and societal factors.
4. Societal Ideas Can Negatively Affect Students’ Mental Health
Shifting societal ideas about beauty has had a positive impact on women’s mental health, but beauty standards are only one of many problems. The societal view of emotional strength is equally detrimental to men’s mental health because it is viewed as something to be dealt with alone. Applauding men who speak about their mental health and supporting others can redefine the definition of strength and provide a more helpful example for boys and young men.
5. Offer Empathy Over Solutions
When someone shares their struggles, it is important to offer empathy rather than solutions. Avoid minimizing their experiences by comparing them to others and meet them where they are instead of where you want them to be. Approaching mental health conversations with open questions and using numerical scales can create a non-judgmental environment and facilitate understanding and support.
6. Support Students by Listening
Engage in shoulder-to-shoulder communication, such as going for a walk together, to create a comfortable environment for someone to open up about their struggles. When you listen to someone without judgment, it improves their brain chemistry by optimizing the amount of dopamine controlled by the limbic system. It also establishes trust and genuine interest in a conversation.
More from Education Summit ’23
Discover more sessions on inclusive teaching, student engagement, teaching with AI, and more. Simply toggle the playlist in the upper right corner of the video player below.