Teachers amazing mental health board goes viral

Must See 03/04/2019

A method a teacher is using to monitor the mental wellbeing of students in their classroom has been praised after going viral online.

The idea encourages students to anonymously let their teacher know how they are feeling at the start of each school week.

Each child writes their name on the back of a post-it note and places it beside one of six categories ranging from "I'm great" to "I'm having a tough time and wouldn't mind a check-in".

The teacher then takes time throughout the week to privately chat to struggling students to see if they want to talk about what's going on in their life.

Over the past week the Facebook post by Tara Mitchell Holman, from Cincinnati, has been shared over 176,000 times and sparked overwhelmingly positive responses.

"Love this! Saving this for when I get my own classroom one day!," one user replied.

"Incredible. Smart, great teacher full of heart, not bitter or hateful, we need more teachers like this," another added.

The mental health of New Zealand school children has been a frequent topic of conversation in Government and media over the past few years, with the rise of those having issues often described as an epidemic.

Ministry of Health data shows thousands of young people are requiring assistance with their mental health, while one in two New Zealand children are bullied at least once a month, according to UNICEF.

On top of general concerns, the recent Christchurch terror attack has sparked the Government into assigning six additional mental health workers to the city.

That step is the start of a new three-year programme, initially formed in response to the Canterbury earthquakes, that aims to have a health worker for every 500 primary and intermediate-age school children in the region.  

Since 2011, there has been a 73 percent increase in the number of children who need support for mental health issues in Christchurch.

On top of this, 61 people under the age of 19 committed suicide in New Zealand between July 2017 and June 2018, with nearly half of those being of Maori ethnicity.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Katrina Casey, told Newshub that teachers play a vital role in promoting the wellbeing of students, though they cannot be expected to be everything to everyone.

"As educators they are not mental health experts and specific mental health expertise is needed for treatment of identified needs and risks in schools.

"In these situations, we work closely with other agencies, including Oranga Tamariki, Child Development Services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health services, Paediatric and Outpatients (District Health Boards), to ensure that students and their families get the right support."

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