Mental Illness in the Classroom

Mental illnesses, unlike most physical illnesses, are often not visible to those who are not experiencing them. However, 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 13 and 18 experience a severe mental disorder during some point in their life. In addition, one third of students who are living with a mental illness will drop out of school before high school graduation.

Although these statistics show that there are many students living with mental health conditions, many feel as though mental health is not a priority in the classroom.  Students who are dealing with mental illnesses or disabilities often react to them in different ways, so it is important for educators to understand the warning signs of mental illness and to work with the students and parents to ensure that their child is receiving appropriate accommodations in order to succeed.

Some warning signs of mental illness include:

  • Refusing to attend school
  • Self harm or threats of self harm
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in a preferred activity
  • Drastic change in school performance

Educators play a powerful role in the lives of their students, it is important to have healthy communication in classrooms for students to discuss how they are feeling. Creating this open door for communication can help to increase awareness about mental health as well as to break the stigma surrounding these disorders.  If you are a teacher who is working with a student who is struggling with a mental illness, talk to your district’s child study team, or check out these great resources from MentalHealth.gov.