How can teachers help students with bipolar disorder?
Students go through multiple phases in their school life. This is difficulty understanding academic content, they have family or financial issues, and some students even find it difficult to with the overwhelming activities they have to dedicate their time to besides participating in academic ones. Let’s not forget the mental challenges some students face in the midst of all this.
Schools always try to make the learning experience of a child smooth and comfortable. So much, they are ready to change their education systems, as we observed during the pandemic the development of LMS portal and their preference despite the drawbacks it has. all this only to make the learning process easily available and accessible for every child. Similarly, with mental challenges institutions have unique developed strategies and remedies.
Most institutions offer mental health in five forms;
- Regular mental health monitoring and checkups through professionals.
- Participating in activities to give mental relief to students, is a prevention process.
- The basic level group organized counseling sessions.
- Individual therapy sessions for the students who need it.
- Professional help and medications are included besides therapy.
Not every school has all five, they have a mix and match of a few methods mentioned. But the most important part is awareness. Every teacher must know what a disorder looks like, how they can offer help to a child, or how they can direct a child to get professional help when the institution does not have separate provisions for it.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder affects brain functions by causing a sudden switch in mood and energy levels, often causing disruptive behavior. We mistake some students’ disruptive behavior for being indisciplined. Often they struggle with bipolar disorders that go untreated and overlooked.
With changing times, people are becoming aware of disorders in general. Although no official training is carried out teachers have an idea about the bipolar affective disorder and how it could lead to depression and mania.
These are the two extremes where depression is characterized by little to no energy levels. Students are constantly stressed, angry, and worried about their academic progress. Mania episodes, on the other hand, lead to reckless behavior with the same levels of anger but are more disruptive. It is an increased energy level that causes students to have exaggerated optimism with a sense of superiority complex that can lead to bad grades and bad quality of school life.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder
Teachers might note the following behavior patterns in students who likely have bipolar disorder;
- Sitting separately or at a distant place to avoid distractions.
- They need extra time to finish projects, assignments, homework, and tests.
- Extremely low or high levels of confidence, with no regard to how their mood affects others.
- Increased or decreased participation in classroom activities, sudden drop in grades.
Such students don’t usually come up with problems because they are either unaware or still in denial. As a teacher, it is your job to notice these symptoms, informed the school authorities, and come up with a solution to make the school experience of these students better. Observing the symptoms is the first step to helping a child with bipolar disorder.
How can teachers help?
Treating bipolar disorder comes with therapy or counseling, mostly psychotherapy with added medication for extreme cases. But a teacher can observe the rate of behavioral changes and provide an elaborate description to the psychotherapist that will help in giving treatment plans for a student.
There are other ways a teacher can help;
- Provide elaborately planned schedules on LMS portals to allow these students to have a sense of stability, that comes from a routine.
- Encourage participation in activities and communicate with other classmates to uplift their mood.
- Introduce new exciting concepts related to the academic content to make learning fun.
- Use soft tones in the class to make students believe a classroom is a safe space.
- Provide individual attention to students suspected of having bipolar disorder or are already diagnosed with one.
- Remain in touch with the school counselor or student counselor to keep updating them about behavioral progress.
Besides bipolar disorder, students have depression, anxiety issues, manic episodes, dyslexia, and other issues that must be addressed regularly. They need stable mental health besides good physical health to do well in life.