According to the World Health Organization, health is not merely the absence of a disease but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. However, most individuals only focus on the physical aspect, often wholly disregarding mental health.
Children and adolescents face several mental health challenges during their youth. If these concerns are left unattended, they may manifest into adulthood and have serious consequences. Students can harm their academic performance when mental health doesn’t get addressed in an educational setting. Additionally, most students cannot reach their full potential because of mental health issues.
Fortunately, mental health and its implications have gained popularity in recent years. Schools and other educational institutes want to hire guidance counselors and other similar professionals who can help pupils wade through the rough waters.
What Is A Guidance Counselor?
Guidance counselors are an excellent source of help for students struggling with mental health, school, or life. Contrary to popular belief, an individual doesn’t have to be battling issues to seek a counselor’s aid. Students can additionally count on these professionals to understand their educational goals and dreams.
Schools and colleges worldwide are starting to recognize the importance of guidance counselors for students. Therefore, this profession is in high demand, and anyone looking to build a successful career must consider pursuing it. If you want to gain the relevant qualification, enrolling in online masters programs for counseling will kickstart your professional life as a counselor.
Like the United States, most countries have mandated guidance counselors for students to provide individuals with the resources to thrive academically and socially. Although there are many duties a student’s guidance counselor must fulfill, the positive impact they have on a student’s mental health takes precedence. Here, we have outlined the top 5 ways a school counselor does this.
- Recognize Warning Signs
Understanding the behavior of your students can be challenging under any circumstances. However, as a guidance counselor, your training and knowledge will provide you with the skills to recognize warning signs of mental illness among pupils. While a teacher may misconstrue defiant and irrational actions of particular students, or worse, punish them—you’ll better understand the underlying cause of these behaviors.
When guidance counselors recognize warning signs early, they can prompt interventions in the relevant students.
Some mental health warning signs may include:
- mood swings
- fluctuations in academic performance and attendance
- disciplinary problems
- getting ill frequently
- Enhance Mental Health Awareness
Since adolescents and children spend a significant portion of their day in schools, making mental health awareness a part of their curriculum makes sense. Guidance counselors can use their knowledge to develop instructions and sessions that advocate for mental health in the community. Most students don’t seek help simply because they don’t realize they need it. Additionally, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses prevents people from coming forward and talking about their problems. However, by empowering students with the knowledge and encouraging conversations, you can open up avenues to get them the help they need.
- Offer Counseling And Crisis Intervention
School guidance counselors often help students resolve conflicts with their class-fellows, teachers, or parents. They act as mediators and offer valuable solutions or strategies that benefit both parties. Besides the academic stress, students may face several other challenges while in school. Some examples are transitioning from a different school, grief over a loved one’s loss, parents’ divorce, or being a victim of bullying. If these emotions get suppressed and no one talks about them, they can burst out at the worst of times and have severe implications. With your expertise, you can provide short-term counseling to these individuals and provide them with the tools that allow them to process their feelings.
- Educate, Collaborate, And Coordinate With Stakeholders In Academia
Guidance counselors don’t just work with the students. Instead, they routinely work with other stakeholders in an educational institute, such as teachers, principals, parents, and community leaders. They educate these individuals regarding warning signs of mental health issues among children and ensure families can access relevant resources. In communities, they recognize and address barriers associated with mental health like stigma, linguistic impediments, and cultural beliefs.
In schools, guidance counselors can also work with academic heads to design a school curriculum inclusive of prevailing social and psychological issues. They might even teach sex education classes or conduct seminars on bullying, exam stress, time management, etc.
- Advocate For Routine Screening Instruments
Screening for mental health risk factors is an excellent way of recognizing potential mental illnesses at an early stage. Counselors can work with other public health professionals to use the data from these screening tools and design relevant interventions. Using their professional proficiency, guidance counselors can promote the ethical use of reliable and valid instruments that can paint a conclusive and dependable picture for schools.
If the mental health needs of students remain unaddressed, they can pose a threat to their academic learning and personal development. The guidance counselor’s training allows them to help these students by providing them with the tools needed to navigate complex situations. And since mental illnesses among the youth have risen in the last decade alone, these professionals are more in demand now than ever before.