Mental Health

How will you as a Guidance Councellor support students and staff with mental health issues?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

As a Guidance Councellor, you have the responsibility to ensure that Mental Health Illnesses are recognized, accepted and supported in your school.

Types of Mental Health Illnesses that we either encounter or are occurring in our schools

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  1. Children with GAD can worry about anything and everything
  2. They need to know details about all situations
  3. Children with GAD try hard to find out the very details that you are trying to hide from them
  4. They think about things long after they have happened
  5. They worry a lot about whether they are good enough at school, sports, or other activities.
  6. Sometimes kids with GAD are unwilling to try new activities unless they are sure they will be good enough, or they may quit new activities if things aren't going well without giving themselves a chance to improve on or master the situation. Most times it is really difficult to get them to even try anything new.
  7. These kids often have headaches and stomachaches especially on school days, and the school nurse might know them well.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  1. Obsessions are experienced as disturbing, bizarre, senseless and counter to the child's sense of himself  and evoke dread, guilt, and discomfort.
  2. Categories of OCD symptoms include: contamination, checking, symmetry, religious scrupulosity, violent or sexual thoughts, fears of loss of essence (changing into someone else), fears about sexual orientation (am I gay?). The thoughts are so disturbing to the child that even though they make no sense (tapping everything four times to prevent harm to one's parents) the child feels compelled to believe the authority of those thoughts and comply with the commands.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Children with SAD suffer excessive distress in the face of actual or imagination separations from their parents.

Panic Disorder

A panic attack is a sudden rush of uncomfortable physical symptoms and a feeling of imminent danger

Social Phobia

  1. Children with social phobia are not just a little "shy," rather they are painfully uncomfortable in any situation where they could be embarrassed or feel they are being evaluated.
  2. May see these threats even in relatively safe situations.
  3. Often wish they had more friends but find it hard to do the things that are required to make new friends or maintain these'friendships.
  4. Adolescents will say they like being alone and don't need friends.
  5. They are often successful at being invisible,  because of their voluntary isolation, (eating lunch in the bathroom or alone at a table, avoiding recess by going to the library or helping the teacher).

Selective Mutism

  1. Children experience extreme anxiety in social situations to the point of consistently refraining from speaking in those situations-typically in public places such as school, or on the playground-but is completely comfortable talking in other situations (typically home), he or she may be suffering from selective mutism.
  2. Confusing to the adults around them, kids have a very clear delineation of "talk" and "not-talk" zones.
  3. Though this puzzling situation is sometimes construed by adults as being manipulative or an attempt to control the situation on the child's part, what is in charge is the invisible hold which the brain has on the child keeping the words stuck in their throat.

Specific Phobias

  1. Phobias refer to a very strong fear of a particular thing
  2. Some kids can have multiple phobias.
  3. The child fears the situation, and also either avoids the situation or experiences severe distress about the situation.
  4. Though phobias are more contained, they can undermine a child's confidence greatly.

Post-traumatic Reactions

  1. Millions of children experience a traumatic event only 25% will go on to develop PTSD.
  2. There are two primary diagnoses that are identified for trauma reactions.
  3. A Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reaction, which can begin anywhere from a month to many months after the traumatic event is manifested by hypervigilance, emotional reactivity, and re-experiencing of traumatic material through flashbacks.

Acute Stress Disorder:

  • Reaction to traumatic event includes intense fear, helplessness, horror or disorganized or agitated behavior (also present in PTSD)
  • Dissociative symptoms- numbing, detachment, disorientation, reduced awareness of surroundings, or amnesia following a traumatic event
  • onset is immediate and shorter duration than PTSD (is evident within a month and lasts 2 days to 4 weeks after traumatic exposure).

Post-Traumatic Disorder:

  • re-experiencing of the event through flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, repetitive play with trauma-related themes, intense distress when exposed to reminders of the trauma, may suddenly feel that trauma is recurring
  • increased fears and anxieties especially at night or upon separation
  • increased level of distress-irritable, easily set off, stressed
  • avoidance of thoughts, feelings, reminders associated with trauma
  • decreased interest in previously significant activities (friends, sports, school)
  • emotional regression-thumb sucking, loss of previously acquired developmental skills (in younger children-bladder, bowel control, language skills)
  • detachment from others, restricted emotional affect, or anger, aggressive play
  • sense of foreshortened future
  • increased physiological arousal-sleep disturbance, increase startle response, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilence

Depression in Children

About half of children/adolescents diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Children with depression may display these symptoms:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Change in grades, getting into trouble at school, or refusing to go to school
  • Change in eating habits
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling worthless or restless
  • Frequent sadness or crying
  • Withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  1. When symptoms last for a short period of time, it may be a passing case of “the blues.” But if they last for more than two weeks and interfere with regular daily activities and family and school life, your child may have a depressive disorder
  2. Major depression lasts at least two weeks and may occur more than once throughout your child’s life. Your child may experience major depression after a traumatic event such as the death of a relative or friend.
  3. Dysthymia is a less severe but chronic form of depression that lasts for at least two years.

What are we doing

Foster climate of inclusion - what do we have? what more needs to be done?

Mindfulness - how do we create an environment where we stop trying to fit the square pegs into the round holes?

Engage support staff - how do we use their expertise to create a climate of understanding and caring?

Research - What does it say it best practice?


The fun part.....

In groups of 2 you will review a case study.  You will answer the questions given to you with the case study....but there is a must review and plan your steps for the case study as if you are in the Guidance Councellors seat?  and   You will have 25 minutes to come up with your plan.  You will present your plan to your colleagues.  Be prepared to ask those tough questions, have those tough conversations and receive some tough feedback.

Technology is Helping Kids

Other On-Line Resources

Links to Lesson Plans

Re-Think Your Case Study

Would any of the resources or apps helped with your approach to your case study? How?


What is the one thing that you will do as a Guidance Counellor to ensure that staff, students and parents have a good understanding of mental health and foster a climate of inclusion for all?

What's So Funny About Mental Illness?

Funny how laughter can heal.....but it also covers up true feelings.....

Let's do our part to ensure we end the stigma