Back to School: A Guide for Educators on Mental Health

Educators are not mental health professionals, but that does not mean they should not be mental health educated because: 

  • 1 in 6 American aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all mental health conditions begin by age 14
  • 50–80% of school-aged children do not receive the mental health care they need

Mental health issues in a student often do impact a students performance in school so teachers, principals, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, spend a lot of time with students and are often the first to notice when something might be off. There are some telltale signs that something might be going on with a student with mental health issues. Some of those tell-tale signs are: 

  • Hygiene changes
  • Mood changes
  • Different circle of friends
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Appetite changes
  • Withdrawal
  • Grade changes
  • Late assignments
  • Skipping classes


 There are also some not so subtle signs. Some students may appear overly happy, overly enthusiastic, perfectionist…those kids are often the ones that mental health issues are missed or not taken as seriously. All signs and symptoms of mental health should be taken seriously and directed towards the guidance counselor, adjustment counselor, school nurse, or principal.

Another really important part of mental health in schools is talking about it, not shying away from it, and promoting a safe space for students to share concerns with trusted adults. Someone within the school, most commonly the guidance counselors, know how to access the local crisis support and mental health services in the area. One way professionals can build skills and confidence discussing mental health with students would be by attending mental health training, learning, using, and teaching positive behaviors and decision making skills, encouraging other professionals to attend training..

There are lots of resources out there for teachers and other educators to learn more about mental health in students and how to become more confident in identifying it in students. Some of those resources which offer trainings, webinars, and  general information are: 


TheNANProject – Saving Lives One Story At a Time 

Professional & Emotional Development for Teachers – FuelEd ( 

Student Mental Health Toolkit | Stigma-Free Society

For Educators | SAMHSA

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