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C4 Module 4.3

When should I be concerned?

Before You Begin

You’ve noticed that a student is withdrawn lately. What other factors would you need to consider to understand whether it is something to be concerned about?

School staff members are excellent observers of behavioural, emotional and cognitive changes in students. Careful and consistent observations of these changes can lead to a better understanding of what’s happening.

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Significant changes in a student’s behaviour could indicate a mental health difficulty - but how can you tell?

Young people’s capacity for coping

Young people’s capacity for coping with life’s challenges will vary depending on the individual. A person’s coping capacity can be thought of as a bucket – filled with that person’s balance of risk and protective factors.

The stage at which the bucket overflows can be thought of as the point at which mental health difficulties are being experienced by the student.

Identifying concerning behaviour

Student behaviour can be difficult to interpret. With so much going on, sorting out what is ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour and what is something more concerning can be challenging. What makes it more confusing is that different people will display different sign and symptoms.

When looking at student behaviour through a mental health lens it’s important to consider four key areas:

  • emotions/feelings
  • cognition/thinking
  • behaviour
  • physical.

Keeping a record

If staff start to notice any emotional, cognitive, behaviour or physical changes in a student, it’s a good idea to take note of the changes and keep a record.

Keeping a record of observations can make it easier to identify when it’s time to be concerned and take action. However, if staff have even the slightest concern or ‘gut feeling’ that something isn’t right, then they should always take action and seek advice.

When to take action

If a school staff member notices changes in the way a student thinks, feels or behaves that cause concern then they should take action.

The type of action required depends on the severity and frequency of the observations. All schools will have their own policies and procedures to follow however the general rule is the longer the worrying behavior persists, the more risky or intense the worrying behavior is, the more the behaviour interferes with the student’s functioning, and the more distress it causes the individual or others, the greater the level of concern.

What is your role in helping students with mental health difficulties?

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