As an educator, you spend so much time with these teenagers, your students, that it is essential to know how to be on the lookout for signs of mental illness and mental health problems. What should you be watching out for? How can you help your students if you suspect there might be a mental health problem in play?
- ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder): ADHD often manifests as difficulties paying attention or listening, fidgeting and restlessness. While most often diagnosed in elementary school-aged children, it can carry though high school and into adulthood.
- Depression: One of the most common mental health issues in teens, depression presents with symptoms like sadness, hopelessness, poor school performance, loss of interest in activities and general irritability.
- Anxiety: General anxiety disorder is difficult to diagnose, but it often appears as fear, poor school performance, trouble sleeping and a variety of other symptoms.
Other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, can also be diagnosed during this period of time, but they are not as common as the three listed above.
Less Common Diagnoses
The most common symptoms of internet addiction include:
- Frustration or anger if unable to go online or access phones or game consoles
- Insomnia, lack of sleep or falling asleep in school
- Poor school performance, falling grades, etc.
- Poor hygiene
- Lying about internet, phone or game usage
- Abandoning friends, family or favored activities
Internet addiction is dangerous because, much like drug or gambling addictions, this addiction releases the same sort of endorphins that a drug hit or a gambling win does. It’s an addiction, in every sense of the word, and has to be treated as such.
Why It's Important
- Like we mentioned before, one out of every five teenagers will experience a mental health issue during their teenage years.
- Of the 20% experiencing a mental health condition, only 20% of them will actually be treated for their illness.
- 50% of these students with mental health conditions will drop out of high school as a direct result of their mental health.
Finally — and this is the most heartbreaking statistic — suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens age 15-24.
We can talk all day about how important mental health is, especially when we’re talking about students, but if those statistics don’t convey the importance, then nothing else we say will get the point across.
What Can I Do?
Start by educating yourself on mental illnesses. While we’ve provided a basic outline of what you can look for, speaking with one or more professionals is likely your best bet. Reach out to your school district and see if they offer any classes or workshops you can attend.
It’s also important to be sensitive when dealing with any mental health issues. Any mention of mental health is often accompanied with a very negative stigma that discourages people from seeking help or even mentioning their problems to friends or family.
Finally, reach out to your students and, if necessary, to their parents. Turn your classroom or office into a safe space where students can come to you with any concerns or problems. By educating yourself and being there for your students, you can take the first steps toward helping any students who might cross your path who are suffering from mental health problems.
Overall, mental health is just as important as physical health, and both should be addressed accordingly. Early diagnoses of mental health issues can help students, parents and educators develop a plan to manage symptoms, and make sure the time they spend in school is the best and most effective time possible.
About the Author
Anum Yoon is an ESL teacher who works in Philadelphia. She is also the founder and editor of the personal finance blog, Current on Currency. You can catch her updates on Twitter @anumyoon!