May I Have Your Attention Please


The importance of mental health literacy in the teaching environment

Today our attention is in constant demand. Demand from work, demand from family and friends, demand from the endless onslaught of notifications on our phones and computers, and of course demand from ourselves. Everything that we do requires our attention at the cost of something else. With these constant demands stimulating our brains, inevitably things will reach a boiling point. For many that may be fatigue, for some this leads to anxiety, and for others it may come to a tragic and fatal conclusion. These responses are a result of our overly stimulated environments waning on our mental health each day. In particular, when our focus and attention is taken away from the most important demand of all, our personal health, it is then that such negative responses can occur.

While some people do have strong mental health, it is important for all to engage in the conversation of mental health literacy and be aware of resources available for support.

Recognizing the importance of mental health, a team of experienced educators and mental health experts hailing from and several universities including Dalhousie, UBC, Western, and StFX joined together to create a resource for future and current educators to learn mental health literacy for the teaching environment.

Dr. Chris Gilham of the Faculty of Education at StFX helped to create the seven module resource to increase educators’ knowledge of mental health and how to support those in need of help.

The module’s two goals are to “enhance mental health literacy of teacher candidates in Canadian Faculties of Education and other educators” and “enhance mental health literacy of teacher candidates in Canadian Faculties of Education and other educators.”

Dr. Gilman and his team hope to achieve these goals in the free online resource. As an aspiring future educator myself, this resource stands as a valuable tool to help support future students’ mental health needs.

To give some perspective on the severity of mental health issues in Canadian society, the Canadian Mental Health Association has several facts about mental health.

For instance “by age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness,” and also “suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds,” and so on. The latter truly exemplifies the degree to which mental health, especially amongst our high school and university students, is of crucial importance. It seems that at the ages of 15-24 so many factors come into play that have an effect on mental health.

Photo: teach/

Photo: teach/

Expectations for grades, social relationships, university applications, moving away from home, deciding on your path for the future, and even simply learning more about yourself are but a small list of the changes that occur largely throughout high school and university. In these environments, educators are a large contributor to the academic stresses that some students may take too harshly. The busy schedule of balancing class upon class as well as one’s social life and personal health is a juggling act that many students have difficulty managing. However that is not to say that educators are the cause of such difficulties that students face, after all students are students for a reason, and classwork, assignments, and tests are all a part of the job. Having future and current educators be experienced with the Teach Mental Health resource will lead to them being better able to oversee students as they navigate the turbulent waters of the education environment.

For any future educators, social workers, or whoever may be interested, the free online resource is available at health-literacy/. For mental health resources on campus and in Antigonish visit life/health-and-wellness.