As time has progressed, the mental health of students has become a more pressing priority for schools and governments. Given this shift in focus, a deeper look at the factors that have a significant impact on students’ mental health states has begun to uncover some interesting insights.
In particular, though it’s not a commonly examined student stressor, the level of safety on campuses can dramatically impact the well-being of students’ mental health states. Understanding the link between these factors can give one a deeper perspective on the health of students.
Here is the connection between mental health and campus safety.
The Role of School Culture in Student Mental Health
To get an acute sense of the factors that affect the mental health of students, it’s important to understand the broad concept of school culture and the role it plays in student life. Put simply, school culture is the general atmosphere on a given campus. It can include factors such as educational goals, the relationship between teachers, staff, and students, and the level of safety on campus.
Positive school culture is often correlated to better mental health in students, providing some key insights into what types of settings are the healthiest for students. Namely, it illuminates the fact that students who feel supported and safe usually have fewer mental health issues than their counterparts who feel unsupported and unsafe.
This means that a focus on positive school culture can help educational institutions bolster the mental health status of their students and cultivate a better learning environment. As such, school culture will likely become a greater and greater priority as we move deeper into the future and schools take a keener interest in the mental health states of students.
Unsafe Environments Can Impede Academic Achievements
It has been shown that individuals coming from lower-income and less safe environments often have more difficulty achieving academic excellence than students coming from safer environments. This observation reinforces the notion that feelings of safety play a deep and integral role in the lives of students.
When students struggle in their academic pursuits, they’ll likely begin to feel a dip in mood, motivation, and self-esteem. In other words, it can have a profoundly negative impact on their mental health states. Furthermore, as a result of having an impaired state of mental health, these students may begin experiencing more academic difficulty.
These ideas highlight the immense and significant impact that levels of safety in an environment can have on many aspects of students’ lives. This being the case, those intent on improving academic results and student mental health states have a chance to do so by engaging in community safety efforts that make campuses more supportive and safer for students.
How Mental Health Support Can Make Campuses Safer
When it comes to campus safety, making sure that students aren’t putting others in danger is typically a top priority. To do this, institutions often engage in strict rules about conduct and threaten students with punishments for breaking these rules.
While it’s important to have consequences for bad behavior, this type of approach may sometimes be ineffective in making schools safer. This is because punishment of this nature simply treats a surface expression of behaviours rather than diving deeper to help remedy the root causes of what is making students lash out in this manner.
By focusing on providing deep and thorough mental health support to students, educational institutions have a chance to help students resolve internal issues, and, as a result, make campuses safer. Some tactics that schools can engage in to help students develop better mental health states include:
- Offering More Mental Health Resources: Oftentimes, large schools will have only one to two counselors available for students to see. This can make it difficult for students to receive help when they need it. By developing more resources and staffing more mental health professionals in schools, more students will be able to receive the mental health care that they need to thrive and act appropriately.
- Educating students about mental health: When students are developing, they may not understand how certain situations are affecting them or why they are acting out in certain ways. Taking time to educate students about mental health and how it affects their lives and behaviours can encourage students to seek out mental health resources instead of engaging in unruly, disruptive, or unsafe behaviour.
- Training staff to detect students in need of mental health resources: When teachers and other school staff are aware of certain signs and behaviors that indicate students are in need of mental health resources, they can intervene before students engage in behaviors that make campuses less safe for others. In this way, schools can be made into safer spaces for all students and staff.
Safety and Mental Health Need to Be a Top Priority in Schools
While academic excellence is an important aspect of education that schools should focus on, it should never come at the cost of student mental health and campus safety. In fact, ignoring these factors will likely result in students struggling more with academic pursuits.
When educational institutions put time and effort into cultivating safe campuses and addressing the mental health needs of students, schools become a better space for staff and students alike. This being the case, it’s more than likely that the link between mental health and school safety will become prioritised in the near future and schools across the country will benefit as a result.