Teachers Need More Mental Health Education, Researchers Say

A Western University researcher says there needs to be a Canada-wide approach to preparing new teachers to support children with mental health issues in the classroom.

Dr. Susan Rodger and her team released a report this week for Physical and Health Education Canada on teachers, and how well prepared they are for supporting students with mental health issues.

The report, called Mental Health Education in Canada: An Analysis of Teacher Education and Provincial/Territorial Curricula, says there is a discrepancy between what training teachers are offered in college and what skills they actually need and are expected to use in the classroom. The researchers looked at what mental health courses are offered to education students, provincial curricula on mental health and brought together focus groups of youth, parents, teachers and principals to talk about mental health at school.

The research suggests teachers-in-training don’t receive enough education on how best to support students dealing with mental health issues.

Dr. Rodger says one in five youth under the age of 18 are suffering from at least one mental health issue, which means a teacher can expect to have at least four students in need of extra support because of a mental health issue in their class every year.

She says before students become teachers they need to be equipped strategies to help those students.

Dr. Rodger says across all of Canada’s faculties of education only two courses of the over 400 they studied were properly addressing how to deal with mental health at school. They looked at courses on children and youth mental health courses, whether they covered strategies for everyday learning, if they emphasized the need for relationships with a students support system and whether they were clearly identified as covering mental health issues for youth.