Handbook helps teachers deal with student mental health

By: Gerry Rucchin
August 21, 2018

Professor Alan Leschied

Professor Alan Leschied

There’s a new mental health resource for teachers that’s ready for the new school year.

Faculty of Education professor Alan Leschied along with professors Donald Saklofske and Gordon Flett, are editors of The Handbook of School-based Mental Health Promotion – An Evidence-Informed Framework for Implementation.

The handbook is aimed at teachers because they’re on the frontline regarding student mental health. Since only 10 per cent of those experiencing mental health issues talk to a professional, Leschied said teachers are more likely to notice when their students aren’t coping well because they see them every day.

“Children often fly under the radar of detection,” said Leschied. “They don’t go to their family doctor or psychologist and say, ‘I’m depressed.’”

The publication gives teachers the most up-to-date evidence on mental health, including appropriate responses when they see a mental health issue, such as using the right words when asking students to describe their feelings. This allows children to label their experiences, such as anger, correctly, which prevents the issue from turning into depression.

“We’re not turning teachers into psychologists. Instead, they need to know something about depression and anxiety. They also need to know something about suicidal ideation,” said Leschied. “Parents and students can rest assured that based upon evidence and good access to information, the teacher will be able to respond in a meaningful way.”

Leschied said it takes between four to six years to accumulate knowledge and share it with the public.  The process of creating the handbook began four years ago when Leschied and his colleagues put together a team of researchers from North America, New Zealand and Australia. Their goal was to provide the best evidence to support schools, teachers and public administrators that provide mental health services to students and families.

Teachers no longer have to rely on their intuition or advice from colleagues who may not have the most current evidence. The resource should also give them confidence that they will ask the right questions, said Leschied.

Seventy scholars contributed to the book. There are chapters on emotional intelligence, healthy relationships, depression, anxiety, non-suicidal self-injury and self-abusive behaviour as well as three chapters on mental health literacy.