Teach100 Mentors on Required Mental Health Training for Educators

mental health training for teachers

We asked our Teach100 Mentors in a survey if they'd ever had to deal with a mental health issue on the job, and startlingly, every responder answered "Yes."

With that in mind, it's easy to understand the logic behind a new bill passed in Montana recommending school employees (not just teachers) receive mental health and/or suicide awareness training.

This legislation is, for now, just in Montana, but similar laws already exist for teachers in Tennessee and other states, requiring the training in order for teachers to stay licensed. And it's no wonder there's concern around this issue: nearly all responders to our survey reported encountering a host of issues on the job, including students with depression, anxiety, cutting, suicidal ideation, abuse, and other issues.

To learn more about where your state stands on this legislation and more, click over to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's site.

And to learn more about what other teachers and education professionals think about mental health training requirements, read on!


We asked Teach100 Mentors: do you feel that mental health or suicide prevention training should be part of teacher training? Why or why not?


Yes, but mainly to direct students to professionals:

  • "Yes--at least something that helps to recognize the warning signs. I'm lucky that kids feel safe with me and trust me. I've been able to help a lot of kids get the help they need. I'm quick to refer when issues are clearly above my head. It would have been nice to have actual training and not to just go with my gut or personal experiences I've had with friends and family as my reference." Starr Sackstein, Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT

  • "Yes to assist in understanding and spotting signs, but mostly to assist in finding professional support." Rachel Jones, Create Innovate Explore

  • "Yes, but it should be gatekeeper training. Teachers need to experts in the classroom but have the skills to recognize students at risk and then be able to channel these students to the trained mental health professionals in their buildings." Carol Miller, The Middle School Counselor

My school or area already requires it:

  • "Yes -- we have a mental health first aid certificate in the UK. It is useful to help teachers and others understand mental health issues. However I think simply to focus on suicide prevention is a bit like simply focusing on CPR in physical first aid. It's better to put this in a wider context of our work. We might be the only person who smiles at a child all day and asks how he or she is doing... being there and doing little things can make a huge difference." Juliet Robertson, I'm a Teacher, Get Me Outside Here


“I've had students who were cutters, drug addicts, and/or suicidal -- they confide in me.” Starr Sackstein, Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT


Yes, I want to feel more equipped to handle emergencies:

  • "Yes, students spend most of their time in school, and that's where a significant intervention can be." --Melanie Link Taylor, MzTeachuh

  • "Absolutely. I have hundreds of students who have mental health issues of many kinds, depression and potential suicide included. As a psychology teacher, I may see more than most, be it is incredibly important for all teachers to be aware of the emotional health of our students." Charles Schallhorn, Teaching High School Psychology

  • "Yes! Especially as a high school teacher I often feel unprepared educationally to tackle this issue. I admit to being, "self-taught," but I would love for someone who is an authority to give me a background of what I am looking for, how to prevent any issues, and how to handle them when/if they arise." Carissa Peck, mELTing Activities

  • "Yes. Teachers deal with a variety of mental health issues on a regular basis. Teachers need to be informed to identify students that are in need of help and have resources available to assist students and families." Todd Bloch, Sweat to Inspire

  • "A student's mental health sets the tone for their learning everyday. Recognizing the signs of distress and then communicating this distress to counselors, mental health professionals and family allows us to empower the students to get the help he or she needs to overcome their obstacles and put themselves back on a path to success." Patrick Waters, Woodshop Cowboy


“We had a suicide by a student in the last few years. It is a very painful and grief filled experience.” Garth, Teachers for Tomorrow


Teachers are already overburdened:

  • "I do not believe it should be required: Teachers are required to do many things: Take classes, attend PD, Online PD on Bulling (This touches on Suicide), teachers cover this content in health classes...and much more. I understand the need for it, but more requirements take time away from the students who need the support and encouragement from their teachers. Most teachers already learn how to deal with mental issues or have a building person who would address these concerns. I am not opposed to the training, if done as part of the school day (PD DAY)." Garth, Teachers for Tomorrow

Experts Weight in:

  • "Yes, suicide is preventable! Students who are suicidal typically have common risk factors and often display similar warning signs to their peers, parents or trusted school personnel. Thus, it is extremely important both that teachers know how to recognize these risks and signs, and that there be school-employed mental health professionals to whom these students can be referred." Stephen E. Brock, PhD, NCSP, LEP, President of the National Association of School Psychologists

  • "Mental health challenges are significant barriers to student engagement and learning. With quality training, educators are better able to remove those barriers because they become equipped with classroom strategies that actually promote positive mental health. Training also improves educators’ skills in identifying those in need of additional mental health support. If we can more effectively connect these students early on with supports from school-based mental health professionals, we will prevent life-threatening behaviors, remove barriers to learning, and keep students positively engaged in school." Troy Loker, Ph.D., President of the Florida Association of School Psychologists (FASP)

  • "Students need to be taught that suicide is not a normal response to stress, but rather a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression. It is important for educators to have mental health training and to provide evidence-based mental health programming to students. Students need to learn to identify symptoms of depression, suicidality and self-injury in themselves and their peers. Also, mental health education for students should include a help-seeking component so they know to reach out to a trusted adult." Michelle Holmberg, Director of Programs, Screening for Mental Health, Inc.

What do you think? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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