Without proper support, students’ mental health and family issues can lead to poor academic performance, behavioral difficulties, and, in extreme cases, self-harm or suicide. Counseling can help students address issues like low self-esteem, academic pressure, and peer relationships, as well as more severe issues such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, or abuse.
While counseling is important to ensure children feel safe, develop resilience, and reach their full potential, schools also play a large part in supporting students and safeguarding them against emotional, psychological, and physical harm. In this article, we share a few tips on how you and your school can create a healthy and safe environment for students. Some of the advice may seem complex to implement; come to my ACAMIS training for international school counselors, Improving Student Health and Wellness through Advocacy, at Dulwich College, Beijing, from May 17-18, 2019 to learn how!
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1. Promote healthy habits for students
Helping students develop healthy personal habits promotes their well-being and mental health both in and out of school. Schools can support students with guidelines and workshops on how to adopt and maintain healthy habits in regards to their sleep, nutrition, exercise, screen time, and relaxation time.
2. Become a beacon of support in your community
To best support students’ needs, they need to have access to supportive individuals both in therapy and within the wider school community. By engaging in proactive, community-wide practice, and becoming an advocate for students’ well-being, you can become an important resource for them to turn to in time of need.
3. Build students’ resilience and independence
Another way to promote a healthy school environment is to give students tools they can use to help themselves when faced with a crisis. For example, the Signs of Safety approach creates a team around the child that they can depend on in time of need. It involves a partnership between the school, the family, and other relevant members of the child’s environment, who work together to standardize, measure, and actively reduce risk through an individualized safety plan framework.
4. Create a healthy, pro-active school climate
Wellness and safety can be integrated throughout the school environment through activities for students, parents, teachers, and school leaders. For example, equipping teachers with basic counseling skills to engage children and talk about different issues, providing clear and practical guidance for parents on how to safely address needs and crises, and helping school leaders to implement school-wide safety guidelines, including suicide prevention measures, can all contribute to a healthy school climate.
Dr. Davy Guo, counseling psychologist at ELG, will be sharing more about these tips and how to educate, empower, and motivate your school community to take preventative action and create a healthy school community at his workshop on Improving Student Health and Wellness through Advocacy at Dulwich College, Beijing, from May 17-18, 2019.