How students and teachers can help students who have mental health issues

Jason Appel, Staff Writer

Although many people are affected by mental health, there is a negative stigma towards individuals with mental health. Everyone can play a part in making students with mental health issues feel more comfortable being themselves and more open to being who they are. 

There is still a mental stigma around Neuqua, but it’s getting better. “Sometimes yes and sometimes no, in some places it’s very positive and everyone just wants to help or talk about it. And others where I have been in class and my teachers have called me a distraction,” said Neuqua student Audrey Baun. 46% of people have some sort of mental health disorder and there is nothing wrong with it, but there is a level of respect that should be shown to people with mental health issues. Some people who have a mental breakdown or a panic attack or may even have a tic, which according to WebMD can be classified as either simple or complex. Simple motor tics may include movements such as eye-blinking, nose-twitching, head-jerking, or shoulder-shrugging. Complex motor tics consist of a series of movements performed in the same order. For instance a person might reach out and touch something repeatedly or kick out with one leg and then the other.” 

It’s ok to ask students with mental health issues if they are ok or need anything; people should not want to make fun of them or talk badly about them for doing it because it’s not something people should hide and people can’t control it. 

Jason Arquila, a Health/Physical Education at Neuqua, describes how he tries to connect with his students on a personal level. 

“I use common interests. I have found that if the student knows you care about them as a human being, then they will be more willing to share and come to me when they need help.” 

Teachers can help a lot during a mental breakdown. One way teachers can help is letting people just go in the hall until it’s over, allowing them to see their counselor or social worker, and checking in on them at some point. It’s really helpful to talk to that person’s counselor to see if you can learn anything about that student or students in general to better help them because not all these tricks and tips are going to help every student with a mental health issue in the middle of an episode. Some people just like being left alone; some just want someone to talk to. 

The school is trying to do more for the students with training teachers and opening new resources, but is it even reaching the students? “I don’t see the changes, it took me all the way through Senior year to be comfortable to go up to anyone and ask for help. I hear the changes but don’t really see them,” Baun explained.  

Arquilla also added additional suggestions on how others can assist those that are going through a mental health episode. “There are things everyone can do for someone who is self harming or thinking about committing suicide or even getting close to it. It’s ok to be there for someone in that difficult time in their life; you can’t force people to stop, you can’t force them to want to live, but you can listen to them, you can tell them that you are there for them if that person ever needs anything sometimes people just need someone else to help them get through it. Jokes don’t help, calling attention is not productive.” 

What is the school doing for the students with these mental health problems? 

“The school is doing inclusion training and sensitivity training, but some staff will be more comfortable than others, some teachers might not be comfortable with helping someone because of their own struggles or they just don’t fully understand,” Arquila noted. 

 For example, Baun described how her film teacher is helpful: “He lets me work on something else if I need to or go out into the hallway if I need, and he will talk to me if he sees I need help. He understands what I am going through.” 

But it also starts with the teachers finding out more about the student so the social workers and counselors can better help that student, as well as the teachers.

The times have changed, and administration has had to learn to adapt to it. “When I was younger, [knowing students]  was a distraction to me, but the more I grew, it got better to know those students. It became less of a distraction; I give my students credit because 10 years ago my students would have been more distracted by it then now,” said Arquilla 

You don’t need to be someone’s friend to lend out a helpful hand or to just say something nice to someone because mental health is such a big crisis. If you’re ever unsure, it never hurts to go to a trusted adult who will help lead that person into the right direction to get proper help.