Net Exchange Response

Title: What would you suggest to colleagues asking about surveys on teachers’ perceptions about mental health of students

Date Posted: 7/1/2013

Question: I am looking for surveys which examine what teachers know about mental health, how they feel about mental health, if they have skills to deal with students with special needs, or teachers attitudes of the kids themselves. Do you know of any existing surveys or researchers in this area?

Response: At the roots of this request is an appreciation that teachers who are familiar and comfortable with everyday mental health concerns (e.g., a sad student, a shy student, a very active student) are more likely to consider ways to address such concerns. It is reasonable to assume that teachers who can successfully engage and accommodate a wide range of students in learning are less likely to refer a student out for behavior or emotional problems. And when provided with appropriate special education aids/resources, they are more likely to be able to include students with more severe problems.

With respect to surveying teachers understanding of mental health, here are some examples and related research.

 (1) Supporting children's mental health in schools: Teacher perceptions of needs, roles, and barriers. Reinke, W. et al. (2011). School Psychology Quarterly, 26, 1-13.

From the abstract: “There is a significant research to practice gap in the area of mental health practices and interventions in schools. Understanding the teacher perspective can provide important information about contextual influences that can be used to bridge the research to practice gap in school-based mental health practices. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers' perceptions of current mental health needs in their schools; their knowledge, skills, training experiences and training needs; their roles for supporting children's mental health; and barriers to supporting mental health needs in their school settings. Participants included 292 teachers from 5 school districts.. Teachers ... reported a global lack of experience and training for supporting children's mental health needs. Implications of the findings are discussed.”

(2) From Yale’s Mental Health Survey Report

“In order to understand the current state of mental health in schools, we asked parents, teachers and other school professionals to complete an online survey to let us know their opinions...Out of 262 school professionals, 231 respondents stated they worked with children with social problems, 230 reported working with children with emotional problems, and 245 reported working with children with behavioral problems...The majority of school professional espondents (79%, or 215 out of 271) agreed that teachers are somewhat prepared to deal with these children. Only 11% felt that teachers were not at all prepared and 10% felt that they were very prepared...” 

(3) Teachers beliefs about mental health needs in inner city elementary schools. H. Walter, et al. (2006). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 45, 61-68.

From the abstract:
    “Objective: To survey teachers' beliefs about mental health service needs in inner city elementary schools. A total of 119 teachers from six elementary schools in a major city in the midwestern United States were surveyed to assess their beliefs about the major mental health problems facing their schools, the major barriers to surmounting those problems, their preferences for mental health topics for in-service education, and their education, experience, knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy pertaining to mental health issues.
    Results: Disruptive behavior was endorsed by approximately 50% of teachers as the largest mental health problem facing their schools, and lack of information/training was endorsed as the greatest barrier to surmounting mental health problems. The highest-rated topics for in-service education were disruptive behavior disorders and implementing behavior plans. Although most teachers had taught students with mental health problems, most had had little education in mental health and little consultation with mental health professionals. Correspondingly, teachers' knowledge about mental health issues was limited, and they did not feel confident about their ability to manage mental health problems in their classrooms.
    Conclusions: Teachers would benefit from education, training, and consultation from mental health professionals if they serve as effective gatekeepers to mental health services.

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UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
tel: (310)825-3634
email: Linda Taylor ~ web: