Mental Health Action Steps for Homeschooling Communities

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.03.50 PMHomeschooling families and communities need to equip students and alumni with adequate information about mental health issues. Students and alumni need to be provided structures of support if they suffer from mental illness.

What are ways you can encourage yourself, your family, and your community to talk openly about mental health issues?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

For Students:

1) Encourage homeschool students to talk freely and openly about mental health problems with trusted adults in their lives.

2) Teach students the truth and actual science about mental illness. Students need to know that mental health problems are just as important and real as physical health problems.

3) Eliminate from homes, curriculum magazines, and conventions any materials or speakers that teach dangerous pseudoscience about mental illness, such as saying such illness is not real, is the result of demonic possession, or is treatable “supernaturally” to the exclusion of professional therapy and medicine.

4) Integrate into children’s overall healthcare an attention to potential mental problems in students.

5) Learn how to encourage healthy social and emotional development among students.

6) Make significant efforts to encourage families to recognize early the mental health needs of children and adolescents. This means learning how to recognize early warning sings of mental health problems.

7) Hold regular education and awareness events to continually empower and equip families and communities with the tools and support systems necessary to create safe, nurturing environments for all students, regardless of — and especially in cases of — mental health issues.

For Parents

1) Homeschool parents need to realize that mental illness is a real thing that impacts them, too.

Maybe you struggle with a mental illness and feel alone or ashamed in your own community. Or maybe one of your friends has. 26% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. That means, out of every 4 of you reading or listening this, 1 of you is dealing with one or more mental illnesses in your daily life. Do we know how to support one another? Are we letting each other know it’s ok to talk about, that we won’t judge? That we will be there for one another?

2) Homeschool parents with mental illness need to realize that their illness will — whether they know it or not — impact their children.

This is something our communities should be open to discussing. Because sometimes, even though we wish it weren’t the case, children need breaks from their parents if their parents are mentally unwell. Again, are we equipped to bear one another’s burdens like that?

3) Homeschool parents need to manage their own mental illness — and get outside help whenever necessary — if they are going to ensure a safe, nurturing environment for their children.

4) Homeschool parents need to have established contingency plans in the event that their mental illness becomes too much to handle along with dedicated homeschooling.

The possibility (or likelihood) of such an event ought not bring shame. It is part of life. But that situation needs to be planned for, so that both the parent’s health needs as well as the student’s educational needs can continue to be met.