January 19, 2023
Mental Health - a term that we didn’t talk much about when I was a student in K-12 school. In fact, it wasn’t something that we talked about when I was in college or early in my career. Today, we are very aware, and thankfully so, of the importance of mental health. Unfortunately, that awareness is likely attributed to the apparent decline in mental well-being.
So what is mental health?
Mental health includes our “mental, social, and psychological well-being.”
“Mental health helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Mental Health and Mental Illness are different. Think about the difference between Physical Health and Physical Illness.
Positive or good mental health is important for learning and socializing. And we are so aware of the importance of good mental health that in Ohio, like many states, we have Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards for K-12 schools. These standards include the following:
These are skills that educators have been teaching since the beginning of schools whether they understood it or not, and that many parents and guardians teach at home as well.
These are the skills that allow one to be successful in school, work, relationships… in life. These skills basically encompass what is often referred to as emotional intelligence, which by the way, is one of the top soft or professional skills that employers are looking for.
But even with the attention given to developing these skills, our students seem to need even more support and education to develop emotional intelligence. Perhaps this need arises from the expansion of media in general and the proliferation of social media, specifically. But whatever the cause, the real issue is how do we increase or promote positive mental well-being?
I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence. His presentation was full of important and useful information. But one of the key points that he made was this:
Emotions are data points that we can use to help us make intelligent decisions.
Often we think of emotions as things to be felt and expressed, and they are. But emotionally intelligent people can recognize their emotions and consider the causes. They can accurately name their emotions. Then they can express and regulate their emotions effectively.
A key point. Emotionally intelligent people are not happy all the time. Mental well-being does not mean that one never feels bad or sad or embarrassed or angry. Mental well-being comes from being able to understand our emotions and use them to make decisions.
As we work with our students and prepare them for their next step (Employment, Enlistment, Education, or Entrepreneurship), a big part of that work is helping them to develop emotional intelligence. And the great thing is that we can do this. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is not something we are born with; it is something that we learn just like reading, solving math problems, welding, programming, or shooting a basketball. Knowing that we have a way to positively impact the mental health of our students and actively putting those plans into place gives me reason to be optimistic about our students’ futures… and ours as well.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988, the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to a local provider listed below.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
ADAMH Board of Franklin County
Community for New Direction
Concord Counseling Services
Safe and Drug-Free Schools Consortium
Jewish Family Center