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Connect and Support

When we all work together to create mentally healthy classrooms and to build student social-emotional skills and mental health literacy, fewer children should require specialized supports to maintain good mental health. However, there will always be some students who struggle with mild-to-moderate emotional problems or a more serious mental illness.

You may have been part of the team that helped notice and identify a concern for an individual student, or a student who is receiving treatment may be in your class. 

You’re part of the student’s circle of support. The student will benefit from your ongoing work to create a mentally healthy classroom, your collaboration with the support team, and the individualized support you provide in class.

How to support students who are receiving mental health treatment

  • Continue with daily actions to actively promote mental health and well-being in the classroom, for all students.
  • Participate in meetings with the parents/guardians and involved mental health professionals to learn about the strategies being recommended.
  • Ask the mental health professionals questions if you’re not sure what something means, e.g., “What would that mean for me as a classroom teacher?” “How can we support each other’s work?”
  • Ensure everyone is working towards the same goal with the student; students benefit from coordinated support.
  • Whenever possible, collaborate with partners such as parents/guardians, family members, Elders, knowledge keepers, cultural organizations and/or members of a faith community.
  • Observe, listen, inform and involve other supports when needed.
  • Be open to new ideas, strategies, and approaches based on how others may understand your students’ mental health.
  • Communicate changes (challenges and progress) with all involved, both with the student, family and team.
  • Notice and reinforce when a student uses their strategies to manage.
  • When appropriate, reinforce the suggested strategies in your classroom.

How to manage challenging interactions with a student

The most effective strategy during a challenging encounter with a student is to come from a place of support and compassion, to maintain a relationship by listening, attending and being present with the student.

It’s natural to want to give advice, problem-solve or “fix” the problem; however, find comfort in the knowledge that you do not have to have all of the answers.

It’s often enough to allow a student the space to be heard, using strategies that help them to calm down and see things from another perspective.

Maintain a compassionate stance. Hear the student’s concerns and put their feeling about the problem into words (name and describe it). Here are some prompts that can help you to convey an understanding of their experience with the problem:

  • “It would make sense that…you wouldn’t want to do come in from recess…”
  • “When I put myself in your shoes, I could imagine that…you are feeling frustrated that you lost your work on the computer…”
  • “You might be worried that…you won’t make the cut, and not get into university…”
  • “I could understand that…”

Add a few examples to let the student know you understand their problem. Avoid using “but” at this stage. Use “because” statements.

  • “because school can be hard and because you care a lot about how you do…”
  • “because you’re having so much fun…”

After using the because statements to show the student you understand, finish with words of support and offer to help.

  • “We’re in this together.”
  • “I get it.”
  • “Let’s see if we can figure this out.”

Work together to brainstorm a solution. Remind the student to use their skills and coping strategies and provide specific examples like deep breathing or taking a walk. Redirect if appropriate.

As a key part of the student’s circle of support, you can help keep others informed if you notice changes. You can also connect the student to additional services as needed.

Take care of yourself

It’s essential that you take care of yourself too—for your well-being and so you’re better able to support the students you serve. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings and try basic self-care strategies . Learn to recognize when you need additional support. Help is available for you through your employee assistance program.

Need help now?

We don’t provide mental health advice, counselling or treatment. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. You can also reach out to Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.