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Five- years ago I started teaching. I never imagined answering such a divine call. Most people assume teachers wear many hats. That would be true. What many don’t realize, however, is how effective secondary educators can be at reducing mental health stigmas in the classroom. If we can learn early intervention and prevention strategies, we will be more effective in handling mental health issues with ease

What Is a Stigma?

A stigma is defined as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something”. For example, calling someone crazy if they struggle with mental health, or lazy if they struggle with depression are stigmas. 

Because I’ve taught in both private and public sectors, and emphasized the importance of faith to mental health, I want to be clear: When stigmas are expressed in Christian contexts, these can be especially damaging to our students’ faith. If you’re a teacher or student of faith working in or attending a public school, you’ll also see why this is crucial. 

Statements like “You’re suffering because you’re sinning,” “Anxiety is a failure to trust God,” or “Depression is a sin,” carry much weight, and help no one. Instead, they cause honest and faithful Christians to question their sanity, their relationship with God, and how much they can trust others. As a teen and young adult, these stigmas were said about me. I felt alone, fearful, and ashamed. Can you relate?

If we want to fight negative and untrue assumptions about our mental health, we have to begin by not believing them about ourselves or allowing them to stop us from living. This step is a process and not as easy as “just not thinking about them”.