Educators, listen up!
Research shows that the human brain takes roughly 25 years to develop. In this time, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational thought, is still under construction, and so often the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, assumes control.
High emotionality, in combination with the many big changes taking place in the brain, may contribute to the fact that roughly 75% of all mental health issues begin during adolescence. It is a time when people are particularly vulnerable, but also a time when intervention and prevention can be most effective.
Especially during these uncertain times, educators play a large role in helping to shape adolescents’ mental health. In Hong Kong, where academic pressure is high and mental health stigma is pervasive, providing students with a safe space outside of the home to discuss mental health challenges, and helping them to understand what avenues exist to seek help, is crucial. Here’s what you can do:
6 top tips for educators:
1 – Remind yourself and those around you that improving mental health improves grades. In a culture that prioritises academic achievement, helping students, parents and colleagues to understand the relationship between mental health and academic success can inspire self-care.
2 – Create a listening space for students. Many students in Hong Kong still feel that there is nowhere to safely voice their mental health difficulties or concerns. Making yourself available as a resource by having an allocated ‘safe space’, or by simply lending an ear, can go a long way.
3 – Know where to signpost students. Many students don’t seek help because they don’t know how or where to go. Educate yourself on what resources are available in Hong Kong and signpost as necessary. The Mind HK community directory may be your first point of call.
4 – Integrate mental health awareness into form time and lesson time. Raise student awareness about common mental health challenges, normalise the experience, and empower students to improve their wellbeing and ask for help if they need it. Increasing mental health literacy will naturally combat stigma.
5 – Get feedback from students about school support. Help them know that you are listening. Ask for anonymous contributions on what the school is doing well and what should be improved to help people feel heard.
6 – Take care of your own mental health. Engage in self-care and create reflective spaces amongst colleagues where necessary. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
For resources and stories on youth mental health, please visit: www.coolmindshk.com
For a list of emergency contacts, please visit: www.mind.org.hk/find-help-now/
For other local mental health services, please visit our Community Directory: www.mind.org.hk/community-directory/
For more information on mental health in Hong Kong, please visit: https://www.mind.org.hk/mental-health-in-hong-kong/
For more information on seeking help in Hong Kong, please visit: https://www.mind.org.hk/getting-help/
Questions? Email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org