Working with Students Facing Mental Health Issues

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Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with students facing mental health issues as a private tutor.

I have worked with students with suicidal thoughts and often find studying meaningless.
On the other end, there are students facing anxiety issues and are extremely nervous about not achieving good grades.
A student has schizophrenia and tends to self-talk and hallucinate a lot.

A few have bipolar disorders, where they have extreme fluctuations in their mood and energy levels. They may have difficulty focusing.
When confronted about their homework, they become easily frustrated and become defiant.
Some have an obsessive-compulsive disorder, where they will lock themselves up in a room or toilet for hours, losing a large number of their waking hours to unproductive activities.
One can only imagine the toll on their parents.

Some have displayed obvious symptoms; others have no obvious signs to my untrained eyes.

It is only until their parents revealed to me that I know of their conditions.
The students are of different ages and education levels.

The good thing is that all of them have been seeking treatment with varying degrees of improvement.
Recently, there seems to be an uptrend for students tackling these issues.

To better understand and coach these students, I began to read up a lot.
Through my readings, I picked up some useful tips – although I’m still learning.

I learned that it is important to:

1. keep an open mind, don’t be judgemental.
Embrace them for who they are, don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.

2. hear them out.
It may just be a misconception that they get frustrated with.
Every student is facing his/her own set of unique challenges. It’s important to look at things from their perspectives. What appears apparent to us may not be so for them.
For example, parents and educators see studying as securing a better future. But not for them.

3. be patient.
While explaining a concept, some of them will look at me with a blank faces.
Most students react in the same way when facing a new concept, except in this particular case that I have been explaining the same concept for the nth time.
Often I find myself repeating the same (basic) concepts over and over again. However, it is important to keep composed.
I know that if I were to lose my patience, how can I expect them to keep theirs?
Rather than seeking a huge leap in improvement, it is more important to make incremental gains. So long as they are better today than yesterday, it is something to cheer for.

I’m not a trained professional.
If you have good materials on handling students with mental issues, feel free to share.

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