• Uncategorized

Working with Students that have serious Mental Disorders


Workingwith Students that have serious Mental Disorders

Overviewof the Topic

Thestages of childhood and puberty provide the best time for the growthand development of individuals. During such time, both physical andmental developments are notable. The developments as aforementionedoffer room for good mental health and are thus essential for keepingmental problems at bay. It is during such periods in the life of anindividual that one spends a majority of his/her time confined withinthe four walls of the classrooms. What is imperative to note at thisjuncture is that schools and particularly teachers are valuableassets when it comes to fostering the mental health of the studentsthat they teach. In the absence of mental health, mental disordersare likely to manifest. Schools, according to Weareand Nind (2011) have the capacity to address the challenge of mentalhealth problems in students that are diagnosed with mental disorders.The startling truth according to Weare and Nind (2011) is that in thedeveloping world, at least 25% of the youths and the children arediagnosed with mental problems and 10% out of the statistic presentedtheir mental health issues qualify as mental health disorders. Otherstatistics from a survey done in the US among 125,000 collegestudents revealed that about a third had functioning problems thatwere linked to depression and anxiety (Novotney, 2014). The figurespresented are just a drop in the ocean regarding the mental healthchallenges that are experienced by students. Workingwith students that have mental disorders in the bid to offering tothem quality specialized instruction, requires the effort of schoolsbacked by input from key stakeholders, as well as the guidance ofprofessional standards of the educators.

Descriptionof the Topic

Childrenand youths with mental health problems have been noted to experiencedifficulties in schools owing to a variety of reasons and so makingan address to mental health in this respect is important (Associationfor Children’s Mental Health, 2016). Some of the severe mentalissues that students suffer from include anxiety disorders (maymanifest in different ways) noted at 41.6% and depression at 36.4%(Mistler et al., 2012). Other mental health problems that are ofconcern include ADHD and bipolar disorder. Giventhe rising cases of students that suffer from mental health problems,identifying ways of working with these students is imperative. Theincreasing cases of students with mental disorders could mean theycould be suffering in silence because of the fact people with mentalillnesses tend to be misunderstood in the society (Stone, 2016).Educators can offer avenues that foster positive mental health thusproviding students with the best environment to thrive in the wake ofadverse conditions that bedevil them (Reetz, Barr, and Krylowicz,2014). Acknowledging the place of educators in this research isimportant given their invaluable role in facilitating both academicand psychological development of students as mentioned by Rizvi(2013). Teachers have to understand this quite well the fact thatmental health is a very sensitive topic which cannot be swept underthe curb.

of Key Issues

Thestudy on accommodating students that have mental disorders will beexpounded on using the available evidence drawn from the effectiveinterventions that have been made in the past and what is availablein policies surrounding the topic. This will help in offering timelysolutions to the plight of mentally challenged students who are‘suffering in silence.` The paper will take the position of havingthe educators providing the direction on the changes that ought to bemade in the schools. The place of other key stakeholders like thefederal government, policy makers, and the parents will beincorporated to assist schools and particularly educators, inrealizing the mission of dealing with the stigmas and stereotype thatsurround students with mental health disorders. The other positionthat will be considered is one which recognizes the need forgoverning standard policies for special education instruction.

Discussionof Importance to Special Education

Thestudy will reveal the importance of accommodating students withmental illness in the classrooms given that the cause forms the mostcritical part of the essence of special education. As a result of theidentified evidence from the literature that exists, the study willbe able to take on a different gear of the identification of aposition on the topic at hand regarding what ought to be done whenworking with students who have mental disorders.


Thestudy by Weareand Nind (2011) reveal that schools over the years have noted theirimportance in cultivating the mental health of students that havemental disorders. Research in the area of mental health has increasedconsiderably with the identification of interventions that can helprefine ways and means of ensuring that students with mental disordersare well accommodated into the school systems. Some of theinterventions that are currently being utilized have been tried andtested to ascertain their effectiveness (Weare and Nind, 2011). Someof the interventions that have been utilized in schools includecharacter education, emotional intelligence, social learning,emotional learning and resilience (Weare and Nind, 2011). Weare andNind (2011) identified that most research in the possibleinterventions of dealing with students with mental disorders, andevaluations done on the topic area had been mostly done in the US.Australia has also been on the forefront of identifying interventionsthat address to the plight of the students with mental healthdisorders (Weare and Nind, 2011). The success of some of theinterventions shows that are working in practice, meaning that thereis hope for working with students with mental disorders in specialeducation.

Thecharacteristics of the most effective interventions, upon evaluationas indicated in the review conducted by Weare and Nind (2011)identified the following information (in brief): the interventionswere linked to academic learning. In this sense, the agenda of theinterventions were in agreement with school commitment andattendance. The other characteristic was that they incorporated abalance between universal learning and the target intervention. Inthis sense, an inclusion of the universal and targeted approaches wasseen to work (although the actual balance had not been identified).The third characteristic took note of the interventions that weremeant to prevent mental disorders or those that fosteredaccommodation of mentally challenged students started when thechildren were young and ran on a long term basis as the childrenbecame older. Fourthly, most interventions took note of the need formaking appropriate use of leaders. In this sense, clinically trainedstaffs were critical to administering both intensive and extensivelearning. Fifthly, emphasis by most of the interventionsacknowledged the placing skills at the focal point in offeringholistic education to children with mental disorders. Sixth, workinginterventions meant that the aforementioned skills had to be embeddedin the school approach for maximum results when dealing with studentswho had a mental illness. Finally, the school approaches had to haverigorous implementation procedures for them to have excellentlearning outcomes. Consideration of the seven characteristics when itcomes to working with mentally challenged students is critical, giventhat intervention based on them have been proven to work as theresearch by Weare and Nind (2011) confirms.

Studiesconducted by Reinke et al., (2011) affirmed the fact that schoolcentered interventions and prevention strategies were critical whenit came to combating the incidence of mental health problems. Themental health concerns seen in students not only interfered with thelearning capabilities, but with the overall social development of thestudents as well (Reinke et al., 2011). Reinke et al., (2011)revealed in their study that a majority of people that benefit frommental health services acquired the said services from schools. Theauthors further added that the need for offering the mental healthservices is imperative given that the prevalence of mental disordersin children. The statistics in the study revealed that about 20% ofthe children under the age of eighteen had had stunts of mentalhealth disorders (Reinke et al., 2011). The disturbing part is thatthe environment that a child is subjected to, where in this case ifit is adverse, the rate shoots to 25% (Reinke et al., 2011).

Thestudy outcome by Reinke et al., (2011) revealed complexity in placeof teachers even as they strived to offer special education to theirstudents. The study showed that as much as teachers were delighted inprecipitating good mental health for their students, some of themfelt that they were inadequately prepared to help the students thatportrayed the characteristics of mental disorders. The teachers feltincapacitated when it came to identifying the implementationprocedures that they had to incorporate in the learning activities(Reinke et al., 2011). The meaning for this is that a gap existed insome of the teachers when it came to the understanding of the bestapproach that could be incorporated when teaching students withmental disorders. The authors proposed on the need for findingevidence centered solutions, from data collected by researchers inthe field. One such evidence-based solution that was revealed by theauthors took note of teacher training, in the hunt to efficientlyreduce mental health challenges in children (Reinke et al., 2011).The teacher-training, according to the researchers had to incorporatebits of family engagement, social development support for thechildren, and having an externalization of the problems that areevident, while in the pursuit of offering mental support to students.Given the research findings by Reinke et al., (2011), it is apparentthat interventions used to address the needs of students with mentaldisorders require qualified and knowledgeable instructors. Thecompetent instructors are crucial in finding evidence-based solutionsfor their students, part of which would incorporate input from otherstakeholders like the parents.

Mentallychallenged students in the US are often underserved (Jones, 2015).The study by Jones (2015) revealed that the Institute of Medicine inthe country took the mantle of calling out on schools to beef upearly identification of students with psychiatric disorders and as aresult, commence offering mental health services to these studentsearly in time. Providing mental health services to challengedstudents, at the beginning of time had the benefit of gainingpositive psychiatric and educational outcomes (Jones, 2015). Jones(2015) emphasized on the need for having effective strategies thatwould instill coping skills to students that have mental disorders.The study by Jones (2015) was aimed at identifying and implementingwellness programs that would ensure that would support the studentsthat are struggling with mental disorders, by offering them copingstrategies. The coping strategies would help deter the mentallychallenged students from going to the extreme of committing suicide,which is a common occurrence for students with such like mentalconditions (Jones, 2015).

Theconclusion identified by Jones (2015) took note of the fact thatschools were better placed when it came to offering mental support tostudents. The study revealed that the interventions that are taken byschools had to address the following strategies:

Teachershad to spark discussions that revolve around the topic area of mentalhealth in the quest to offer support to students that have mentalhealth disorders (Jones, 2015). From initiating such discussions,students would be made aware of teen suicide cases which are commonlyassociated with mental illness. Such like communication is essentialfor the prevention of suicide cases given that students and teacherswould be aware of the warning signs that are critical in thediagnosis of the undiagnosed cases of mental disorders (Jones, 2015).Secondly, students have to feel connected to the teachers in schoolfor them to feel supported (Jones, 2015). On that note, strategiesthat are upheld by schools in their quest for addressing to mentallychallenged students have to incorporate full support and care to thestudents. Thirdly, Schools have to include strategies that approachthe mental well-being of the students from multiple angles (Jones,2015). The schools ought to make connections to the resources thatare at the disposal of the community which is available to thestudents, parents, and teachers (Jones, 2015). In so doing, parentswould be made aware of the mental state of their children, and theycan also be trained on the topic of mental health. In summary, themessage that the author attempts to put across is that providingmental health support can be facilitated in an out of school, ascenario that can be facilitated by the schools (Jones, 2015).

Thereis a vast pool of literature that exists regarding the area ofstudents` mental health and the role that schools can play inproviding support to such like students. The evidence in theliterature will provide more insight on the topic of dealing withstudents, who have mental disorders, it is apparent that theinformation presented above is in one way or another intertwined.From the review of the evidence in the literature, it is clear that agap exists in the following areas: diagnosis of severe mentaldisorders in students, lack of adequate teacher training competenciesin the field of special education and community support sparked bythe effort from schools. Other gaps took note of the inadequacies inthe support that was offered to the students with mental disordersand the overall accommodation of the mentally challenged students.The position policies will look at the policies that are availablethat are relevant to the topic of the paper, which is critical tosealing the gaps that are existent in the area of dealing withstudents that suffer from serious mental illnesses.

Argumentfor Position

Thestatements below provide ways of coping with students that havemental disorders in the schools.

Position:On having adequate teacher preparation with necessary tools thatwould assist them when they work with students with severe mentaldisorders

Studentswho have mental health disorders have a right to a high-qualityinstruction which can be facilitated by competent and highlyqualified educators (Council for Exceptional Children, 2016). Theliterature noted above as presented by Reinke et al., (2011)identified the sad fact that some teachers had no idea of what theywere to do when it came to identifying and implementing strategiesthat would abet mental health for their students. Such like scenariosprompt the need for identifying novel ways of evaluating professionalcompetence of teachers in the field of special education (Council forExceptional Children, 2016). The Council for Exceptional Children(2016) emphasized on public policy that would ensure that mentallychallenged students had access to specialized instruction. On thatnote, the Council further addressed that such a policy would ensurethat educators work hand in hand with other personnel in offeringsupport to the students with mental disorders. It is, therefore,imperative that quality instruction is made available to thechallenged students for their mental help. The reason for this isthat high-quality education is likely to spark desirable learningoutcomes, which is the ultimate goal when working with students thathave mental disorders.

Withthe changes that are seen in policies, practice, and deliverychannels, education agencies have the mandate of assuring the publicthat the educators who deal with mentally challenged students haveexcellent knowledge and skills that are critical in offering supportto the said students (Council for Exceptional Children, 2016). TheCouncil for Exceptional Children (2016) was of the view thatcontinuous improvement in the high-quality professional advancementof special needs educators must be acknowledged and rewarded. Apublic policy that would ensure that the necessary resources are atthe disposal of teachers for professional development is, therefore,important.

Identificationof public policies that tie the role of the Federal government to thetraining of educators who deal with offering support to mentallychallenged students is necessary. Expansion of leadership andfinancial assistance offered by the government in training teachersis a step closer to realizing the development of a high level ofleadership personnel. Such personnel would address the needs ofspecial needs students and thus provide avenues that would providethe necessary support to the students. The federal government canalso establish a public policy that would facilitate research intothe services that are offered to the mentally challenged students inas far as curriculum development is concerned (The Council forExceptional Children, 2016). The research ought to be aimed atdeveloping dissemination systems, with a national scope which thatwill be in a position to modify the instruction that is offered tothe students with mental disorders.

Developmentof public policies that acknowledge the role of the local and stategovernments in providing support to the preparation of personnel whowork with students that have a severe mental disease is imperative.Emerging special education services require funding extension beingmade available at the local and state governments (The Council forExceptional Children, 2016). A policy that appreciates differentgovernment levels would help in making the society aware of thechallenges which students with mental disorders face and that thevarious government levels are committed to rectifying the societalmisunderstanding of such students (Reetz,Barr, Krylowicz, 2014).

Moreneeds to be done in the area of recruitment of educationalinstructors who deal with exceptional students. In this sense, apublic program can be made by educational agencies that wouldfunction in the attraction of highly motivated students to the fieldof special education. A program that is well structured and whichattends to the needs of exceptional students is crucial for ensuringthat only the qualified and highly motivated professionals end up inthe field of special education (The Council for Exceptional Children,2016).

Theplace of higher education institutions is an important aspect. Theseinstitutions have the mandate of ensuring that they mobilize thenecessary resources that would in turn foster support for studentswith mental disorders (The Council for Exceptional Children, 2016).The higher education institutions can provide an extension ofknowledge particularly to the programs that deal with specialeducation. The institutions have to beef up their training tools andtechniques for special education students. The institutions have tooffer programs that are developmental in nature, to the students andprofessionals in special education. This would ensure that emergingissues in mental health, which are in line with the community, areaddressed. The institutions should also be willing to provide testinggrounds for the development of programs that are innovative, andwhich would help special educators work well with exceptionalstudents.

Aspart of the preparation of teachers who specialize in specialeducation, attention should be paid to cultural diversity. Personnelpolicies that function to assist the educators in attending to thecultural and diverse ethnic needs of the students are imperative asnoted by The Council for Exceptional Children (2016). On a similarnote, diversity preparation of the educational instructors, in theform of linguistic and differences in learning styles is important inthe search to come to grips with the plight of the diverse mentallydisturbed students.

Theargument on the need for having a preparation of special educationteachers to deal with students with mental needs has shed light onthe different roles that multiple stakeholders have. The support thatthe stakeholders can offer to schools through the inception of publicpolicies and programs is priceless. Asides from the need forequipping instructors with the necessary tools that would help themas they work to offer support to students with severe mentaldisorders, the element of standards must be considered. This willform the basis of the second position in the study.

Position:Onhaving professional responsibilities and standards when working withstudents with severe mental disorders.

Thefunctioning of professionals in the sector of special educationrequires a set of governing conditions. The effectiveness ofeducational instruction that is offered to the students that havemental disorders ought to be embraced as noted by The Council forExceptional Children (2016). On a similar note, a public policy thathas incorporated ethical principles for special education educatorsis worthwhile. Upholding the ethical principles would be critical formeeting the expectations of the mentally incapacitated students andfor the maintenance of competence of the professional instructors.The learning outcomes of the students would be improved given thatthe teachers would effectively disseminate knowledge and skills thatare necessary for providing support to the challenged students.

Reviewand assessment of the professional standards that are embraced byspecial education instructors must be done to ensure that they workin agreement with ethics principles and overall professionalpractices. As part of the professional standards, procedures foremployment of special education instructors and the subsequentprofessional training and development must be governed by publiclyacknowledged policies. The professional development must be in linewith other stakeholders where in this case, parents, colleagues,para-educators, and researchers must be considered. Standards mustalso be present in the entry of special education instructors intothe profession. Programs that function to prepare special educationinstructors for their roles ought to adhere to policy rules (TheCouncil for Exceptional Children, 2016).

Theposition of this paper on having policy standards andresponsibilities that are followed to the latter is critical inemphasizing the earlier position of preparing professionals for theirfuture roles in special education instruction.



Thefirst position identified the place of multiple stakeholders inpreparing special education teachers for their roles when workingwith mentally challenged students. The role of the federal, local andstate government considered as well as that of higher educationinstitutions, and recruitment agencies, just to mention a few. Thepolicies that could be fostered by the stakeholders sang a similartune of ensuring that at the end of the day, instructor competencyand motivation will spark quality education and desirable learningoutcomes for students with severe mental illnesses. Shift intoaddressing the need for having governing principles which guide theaction of special educators was noted. In this respect, attention waspaid on policies that uphold ethical principles and professionalstandards. That said, it is clear that with the adoption of policiesthat have a common goal for accommodating mentally challengedstudents is imperative.


Itis high time that the society members, starting with the educatorsidentify ways of ensuring that mentally challenged students are wellaccommodated in schools and are offered high quality instruction sothat at the end of the day they garner desirable learning outcomes.The instructors can lead at the forefront in rooting support forenforceable policies that ensure working with students that havesevere mental disorders becomes a frequent occurrence, similarly todealing with individuals that manifest other physical ailments.


Associationfor Children`s Mental Health. (2016). Problems at School. RetrievedNovember 19, 2016, fromhttp://www.acmh-mi.org/get-help/navigating/problems-at-school/

Councilfor Exceptional Children. (2016). Professional Standards and PracticePolicies and Positions. Retrieved November 19, 2016, fromhttps://www.cec.sped.org/Standards/Professional-Policy-and-Positions

Jones,E, J. (2015). How Schools Can Support Students with Mental Illness.Educationand Human Development Master’s Theses.Paper 582.

Mistler,B. J., Reetz, D. R., Krylowicz, B., &amp Barr, V. (2012). Theassociation for university and college counseling center directorsannual survey. Retrieved from Association for University and CollegeCounseling Center Directors website: http://files. CMC global.com/Monograph_2012_AUCCCD_Public. pdf.

Novotney,A. (2014). Students under pressure. Retrieved November 19, 2016, fromhttp://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/09/cover-pressure.aspx

Reetz,D. R., Barr, V., &amp Krylowicz, B. (2014). The association foruniversity and college counseling center directors annual survey.Aurora, 51, 60506.

Reinke,W. M., Stormont, M., Herman, K. C., Puri, R., &amp Goel, N. (2011).Supporting children`s mental health in schools: Teacher perceptionsof needs, roles, and barriers. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(1), 1.

Rizvi,S. (2013). Mental Illness in the Classroom: How Educators Can HelpStudents Succeed. Retrieved November 19, 2016, fromhttps://www.studyinsured.com/health-tips/educators-agents/student-mental-health/mental-illness-in-the-classroom-how-educators-can-help-students-succeed/

Stone,V, B. (2016). Addressing Mental Health Disorders in the Classroom.Retrieved November 19, 2016, fromhttp://www.teachmag.com/archives/7220

Weare,K., &amp Nind, M. (2011). Mental health promotion and problemprevention in schools: what does the evidence say?. Healthpromotion international,26(suppl1), i29-i69.