Mental Health

Students and teacher walking in school hallway

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices, and it is integrally linked to our physical health. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental health conditions affect one in five adults in the United States every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health and behavioral disorders are also increasing in youth and presenting themselves at younger ages. These disorders lead to social, emotional, and academic stressors, placing youth at higher risk of poor health, academic and economic outcomes.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserve your love and affection.”

– The Buddha

NEA Healthy Futures promotes a greater emphasis on awareness of mental health needs and early intervention services to ensure that all of us can enjoy the highest quality of life possible. This is especially important in a school setting, where our children are developing into young adults and many sources of pressure can lead to high levels of stress — for both students and school employees.

You’ll find the following topics covered in this section:

Depression and Anxiety
Pensive student:
Everyone is sad or worried sometimes. However, the signs of depression in children and teenagers may be misinterpreted as a passing stage in life that they will grow out of – all teenagers are moody, right? But it could be something more, like depression or anxiety. About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement. Depression and anxiety can also impact educators and school employees. Learn more about the symptoms and what can be done.

Advocacy Resources for Suicide Prevention: For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NEA encourages its state affiliate members to lobby their respective legislative bodies and boards of education for the inclusion of suicide prevention, alertness, intervention, and postvention programs as options for educator preparation programs and professional development. This section includes information and resources to assist you in your state advocacy efforts.

Grief and Trauma: Grief, trauma and loss are unfortunately a reality for everyone. Whether you, a coworker or a student loses a family member, experiences economic hardship, goes through a natural disaster or experiences violence, it can cause additional stress and anxiety.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Stress and stress symptoms linked to trauma can sometimes result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People who have PTSD experience incredible levels of stress and fear. Learn more about the disorder and its symptoms, as well as who is at risk and what can be done to help them.

clasped-handsBuilding Resilience: When faced with stress or trauma, it can be hard to do what is necessary to keep in good mental health. But, it is worth the effort to build resilience and invest time in good mental health. We put together some tips and information to assist you in building resilience, something that can be shared with students and others. And, you can learn how your connection to school can help build resilience in your community.

Substance Misuse and Abuse: Instead of seeking professional help, sometimes people “self-medicate” through alcohol, illegal drugs and misusing prescription drugs. Clearly, this can do more harm than perceived good – not only for a person’s mental health, but also for their physical health.

Getting Help: This can sometimes be the hardest part of treating mental health issues. Many people don’t know that they need help, or don’t want to get the help they need because of the stigma around mental health issues. Though this step can be difficult, it is incredibly important. We put together some information to help you identify different kinds of help that can be obtained.