MILWAUKEE, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A fourteen year-old walks into a public school with two guns, kills two teens and injuries a pair of teachers before killing himself. How many times will we hear this story before we focus our nation’s resources on improving our public schools? What do our teachers need to know and be able to do when challenged by student mental health? A recent summit of mental health and education experts at the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC) in Milwaukee revealed some answers.
“Today’s classrooms are very different from even 10 year ago,” said Nanci Schiman, Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, a summit participant. “Teachers need the tools to understand and support a diverse range of student needs and challenges. As a mental health professional, I have seen the tremendous successes that come in academic settings where staff recognize and support students with mental illnesses.”
The summit attendees identified many critical competencies for teachers, including:
— Awareness of the continuum of mental health – mental illness and early
warning signs of mental health concerns
— Communication skills that work for connecting with all students –
especially troubled students
— As a member of a multidisciplinary team, who they can count on from the
team to support/guide their work with students and to offer needed
services to the students
— Personal and professional limits – when to ask for help with a troubled
— The language and skills to communicate mental health concerns about a
child to parents and colleagues in a context of trust and empathy, to
improve academic performance, classroom behavior and their sense of
— Appreciation and awareness of diverse populations within the school and
to embrace the importance of cultural competence
A number of key training methods for teachers also emerged including storytelling – sharing personal experiences, success stories; experiential learning, mentoring new teachers, learning communities, cross-disciplinary teams and online delivery – information, stories, models, courses, best practices.
“We can not focus once again on what we expect from teachers if we do not simultaneously address the ongoing decline of support for our nation’s best public avenue for the development of our citizens – our public schools,” said Sue McKenzie, Program Director for both NAHEC and InHealth WI.
About National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC)
Established in 1989, the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting a national network of organizations that provide health education programs. Its members are organizations providing effective, sustainable and broadly accessible health education programs. Through this national network, over 3.7 million children and adults receive vital health education that empowers them to actively participate in creating healthier communities. NAHEC’s mission is to make health education broadly accessible, up-to-date, effective, and sustainable.