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As a teacher, what should I do?

Teachers work day in and day out with youth who are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness.

Learn what you can do, as a teacher, to help your students succeed and understand the importance of mental health.

(Information from

Teacher Writing a Formula on a Blackboar


know your students

Start the school year with a clean slate and get to know your students as they are. Yet, if you find that some students exhibit odd behavior, check in with other teachers to see if they have noticed similar patterns from the same students and seek advice from a school counselor if you feel that action needs to be taken to help the student succeed.


See the good

Most students exhibiting odd behavior are either experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, which are out of their control, or events at home which are causing outbursts in the classroom. 

Be patient with these students and understand that they want to belong and be successful like everyone else, they just may need a little extra help getting there.


Learn the signs

It's important for teachers to understand the different mental illnesses as well as the signs and symptoms associated with each one. Please visit our Mental Health Definitions page to learn more about the common mental illnesses experienced by youth to gain a deeper understanding of each one.


Work with families

If a youth is experiencing a mental health issue, it may be best to reach out to their parents to communicate regarding a plan to move forward to ensure that the student is still successful in the classroom. Accommodations can be made, if needed, for an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or a 504 disability plan which can help the student ease feelings of stress and being overwhelmed.


Build Resilience

Help students through difficult situations by teaching them resilience. We will all experience failure and not every teen will achieve a 4.0 in high school. Teach your students that failure is normal, it can be accepted, and you can move on and grow from negative moments. A student's self-worth is not based on how many A's they've received or what college they get into. Check out our Building Resilience page for more tips.

Additional resources

Learn more about what you can do as a teacher:

  1. Vantage Point Recovery provides an in-depth overview of how teachers can help their students and recognize the signs of mental illness before it becomes a crisis.

  2. Santa Clara County Office of Education offers a variety of resources for teachers including online teaching tools, a library and more.

  3. HEARD Alliance lists a variety of local mental health programs and projects that are changing the narrative around mental health.

  4. OJJDP's Tips for Teachers: Trauma-Informed Care for Children Exposed to Violence

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