The writer of this article asked five teachers this question. Three of the five responded with a hard, immediate “No.” The fourth teacher, after hesitation, responded with “I think so.” The fifth, a high school teacher pursuing a master’s degree in administration, gave a confident “yes.” A formal 2011 Psychology Today study found that only 34% of teachers feel they are prepared to identify and assist students with mental health needs, such as Depression.
Children are raised to believe that if they have a problem, they can go to an adult they trust. The common belief is that one’s own parents are the best people to go to with a problem, quickly followed by a teacher. Yet it seems our teachers are overwhelmingly unprepared to deal with a common issue that has a serious impact on approximately 20% of teenagers in the United States.
Resources for assisting these students vary greatly from school to school. Studies overwhelmingly find, however, that the majority of schools are unable to provide adequate services to meet the demands from their students. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that fewer than half of students with mental disorders are likely to receive any form of treatment. While this is an extremely far-reaching problem that involves many more people than the already overworked teachers, it is the teachers who are on the front lines and are in the position to identify issues and assist students in finding resources to get help.
The first step to correcting this problem is to ensure our teachers are better informed and more able to identify potential mental disorders. It would be unreasonable to expect every public school teacher to hold a PhD in psychiatry, but professional development days devoted to learning how to identify these disorders could have the potential to greatly improve the lives of countless students.
The majority of teachers do not personally feel confident in their ability to recognize or assist a student struggling with Depression. This does not mean that teachers are ill-intentioned or unsafe to talk to. If you are a student struggling with depression symptoms and don’t know what to do, your teachers or school counselors will likely be willing to do anything they can. A good teacher will work with you ensure your academic success throughout whatever difficulties you are having.
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