Teachers urged to heighten awareness for mental issues in students
An Education Bureau psychologist warned that mental illnesses are key alarms for suicides among pupils, calling on schools to pay attention to their behaviors and strengthen their mental health.
In a blog on Sunday, the bureau's educational psychology service senior specialist Michelle Chan Wai-man wrote that schools are busy with exams in January and February, when students face larger stress.
If their exam results are bad, they may not be able to process their feelings and suffer from tremendous worries and disappointments.
“Teachers should help pupils understand stress and unfavorable outcomes are inevitable. What's more important is to learn their own way to relieve stress and not to allow negative emotion accumulate in one self,” she wrote.
Chan cited researches that adequate sleep is key for learning, memory and maintaining a steady mood, while exercising and leisure activities can also help students sustain a positive mood and relieve stress.
“During exam periods, students should especially have enough sleep and keep a habit of healthy activities and to take care of their own mental health,” she said.
Chan said many people suffering from mental illnesses experienced their first symptoms during their adolescence period, and early detection can lead to early diagnosis. However, due to a low awareness, a number of students were not treated promptly, as studies have found some to have delayed for months, or even years.
In the meantime, they may suffer from skin and digestive discomfort, as well as sleeping problems. In the worst case, they may harm themselves or even commit suicide.
Chan also said teachers should build friendly relationships with pupils so the latter will be willing to seek help when they encounter emotional difficulties.
“We can only notice their special needs in mental health if we understand the students' personality,” she wrote.
“Teachers and students can show pupils they care about them through small games, and to begin conversations and activities together with them, to build stronger bonding.”
“They should also guide students they need not feel ashamed to tell others about mental health issues, such as insomnia, concentration difficulties , lower learning efficiency, loss of interests and mood swings, and instead of hiding them, they should be trying to let them heal on their own,” she wrote.
She told teachers to keep an open mind when pupils seek help for mental health issues.
“We should listen patiently, make no judgement, promptly express our care and acceptance and help students figure out how their teachers , family and friends can help them, and self-help ways to alleviate their emotions,” she said, adding they should refer the pupils to professional assistance if necessary.
Chan said teachers and parents are “gatekeepers” in protecting students, calling on them to read the bureau's guideline about identifying pupils who possibly suffer from depression, anxiety, selective mutism and Tourette Syndrome.
The bureau has also hosted seminars on preventing student suicide, which taught teachers to pick up suicidal students and precautionary measures.
Two of seminars held last month were attended by 1,750 principals, teachers and social workers from secondary and primary schools.