Detecting signs of mental health problems in secondary school-aged youth

Mari Salminen-Tuomaala, Kaija Nissinen, Ari Haasio


Objective: The study purpose was to describe secondary school nurses’, subject teachers’, special needs teachers’, study counselors’ and school social workers’ (n = 60) experiences of stressors that contribute to the development of mental health problems in secondary school pupils. Another purpose was to describe the professionals’ educational needs regarding mental health problems of secondary school pupils. The study aimed at producing information that can promote the detection of mental health problems and facilitate early interventions in secondary schools. The information collected came from the professionals only, not from the pupils or their parents.
Methods: Data were collected in Finland using a Webropol online survey and analyzed by inductive content analysis.
Results: According to the results, secondary school pupils’ mental health problems are associated with physical and psychosocial stressors, and with stressors pertaining to learning and studying, lifestyle, family, friend relationships and socioeconomic factors. In addition, the pupils’ mental health problems are associated with stressors pertaining to social media. Professionals working at secondary schools need education on how to identify pupils’ mental health problems, how to take up the concern with the pupil and parents, and how to support and counsel youth with a mental health problem.
Conclusions: Although information packages, recommendations, materials and tools are available, encouragement and more specific and concrete mental health education for both pupils and professionals is required. New structures and practices, and possibly re-allocation of resources, may be necessary. The teachers’ role in mental health promotion and prevention of mental health problems should be supported and resourced more effectively. Psychiatric nurses should be employed at schools.

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Clinical Nursing Studies
ISSN 2324-7940(Print)   ISSN 2324-7959(Online)

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