Experts recognize that social emotional learning (SEL) plays an important role in promoting positive mental health and mitigating symptoms of mental health disorders, like autism spectrum disorder and anxiety disorders, among children.

The Relation between Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health

Each year, up to one in five children in the U.S. shows symptoms or signs of a mental health disorder. Most individuals with mental illness begin to experience symptoms and signs early in life.  Untreated or undiagnosed mental health conditions are likely to affect a student’s ability to learn, develop, and grow.

If not treated, the problems kids face can tie into severe problems found in schools, like low achievement, chronic absence, disruptive behavior, and even dropping out. Schools offer a unique and great opportunity to identify and help treat mental health conditions, such as ADHD, by serving students where they already are. 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) can equip students with the skills and competencies they need to develop resilience and effectively manage their behavior, emotions, and relationships with others. An important focus of social emotional learning is the promotion of positive development through fostering emotional and social skills that are the core of mental wellbeing and success in life. 

SEL can be one of the most proactive initiatives for mental health illness prevention. Research indicates that this kind of learning can help reduce anxiety, suicide, substance abuse, depression and impulsive behavior in kids, while increasing test scores, attendance, and prosocial behavior, like kindness, personal awareness, and empathy.

Positive social skills give children viable tools to regulate their emotions and make good choices about their behavior. Teaching kids coping skills, mindfulness, effective communication skills, and self-regulation gives them the resources needed to address various mental health challenges that hinder learning.

How Focusing on Emotional Health in Schools through SEL is Impacting Students

Social-emotional learning is a vital component of education in many schools today. The recognition of the importance of mental health in schools has led to more emphasis on the role that schools play in promoting and improving mental health for all students. This is in addition to providing support for kids who are already at risk or are exhibiting mental health problems.

Researchers have revealed that SEL education in schools reduces aggressive behaviors in the classroom, which frees both teachers and students to concentrate more on learning. Research also suggests that when students get SEL training in school, they are 42 percent less likely to become physically aggressive on school premises.

By implementing social-emotional learning in the school, you will realize that the time dedicated to fostering emotional intelligence and successful conflict resolution is well spent. In addition, mindfulness practices—a staple of social-emotional learning—can reduce reactive stress responses in kids. A study by Rowan University examined various breathing techniques as a way to calm students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. The study indicated that mindfulness exercises are likely to have a noticeable positive effect on reducing aggression and reactive behavior.

Evidence-based social emotional learning programs are implemented in classrooms in order to address the needs of all students. SEL programming can be effective prevention for children, as participation in SEL programs fosters those skills that they need for coping with various life challenges.

How the Focus on SEL and Mental Health Affects Teachers 

Ask any teacher, and they will likely tell you that teaching is a very stressful job. Teachers not only have to manage a classroom full of kids, they also have to respond to parent emails, handle administrative paperwork, develop curriculum, and be responsible for extracurriculars. 

Studies indicate that up to 50 percent of new teachers quit the teaching profession within five years. With incredibly high rates of burnout and stress, it is important to support the emotional wellbeing of teachers.

Teachers who focus on SEL are more likely to respond to students with empathy. Angry and stern responses from teachers may breed resentment in kids who receive them. On the other hand, teachers who lead with care and compassion are more likely to gain the trust and respect of their students.SEL programs help teachers manage their classrooms in a way that promotes interest and engagement.

How GoGuardian Supports Mental Health Through SEL

Mental health and suicide prevention are among the forefront of issues affecting today’s youth. Social-emotional learning can help create healthy environments for students, and our work at GoGuardian is crucial at a time when educators are increasingly recognizing the value of SEL in schools. GoGuardian is committed to student mental health by exploring the benefits of SEL and using Beacon to alert schools of suicide or self-harm activity online.