Teachers in schools can actually have a huge impact on their students’ mental health. Young people often spend more time talking with teachers than they do with their parents, so it’s no surprise that they have this much influence. “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Carl W. Buechner.

Throughout the process of my education, I have had many different teachers, each of them bringing something different to my life. I can’t say that all my experiences have been negative, but they haven’t all been positive either. I once had a teacher who just caused distress and upset almost every lesson. So many people found it difficult to cope with the stress of his ‘teaching style’ and I remember being constantly singled out for things I wasn’t doing. Once, someone three rows in front of me dropped their metal ruler and it made a loud sound. He turned around and told me to stop making noise because I was distracting the class. There were also multiple occasions where he told students to ‘jump out a window’ or that he would love to ‘fight them’.

The point of this isn’t to identify the flaws in this specific teacher’s personality, but to highlight the difference one small comment can make. One student in my class would have to be escorted out almost every lesson, due to experiencing uncontrollable panic attacks, triggered by his temperament. I had a few other classes with this student and she never had to leave any of them. As well as this, I can remember a number of occasions (different people each time) where someone was crying at the back of the classroom in full view of the other students, which obviously had lasting effects on their mental health. I can confidently assume that this happens in every school, that there is at least one teacher who will cause irreparable damage to their students’ mental wellbeing.

However, I can now argue that some teachers have the exact opposite effect on their students’ mental health. I have recently experienced a number of teachers who genuinely care about the class, and the individual students in it. Small comments made to me by certain teachers have actually improved my day, and the knowledge that I have someone I can go to for help is somewhat reassuring. As someone who has struggled with their mental health for years, I have always relied heavily on the support of other people, but for a long time it never occurred to me that I could speak to a teacher about something I was going through. Maybe this was because of the negative experiences I had with previous teachers, or because I didn’t believe they would want to help.

Recently, I had concerns about something, and it seemed to be out of my control, so I felt I had to speak to a teacher about it. This ended up being one of the best things I ever did. I felt really supported and I felt like the school really wanted to help. I ended up speaking to another teacher who had been concerned about me during the week, and she recommended some things I could do to get through what was happening. It’s the little things like this that can have such a huge impact on someone’s day, or whole week, even.

My point is that some small comments can have such huge consequences for students, especially during adolescence when we are most vulnerable. This consequence can be good or bad, so teachers should be aware of what they are saying and how it is affecting us. Sometimes all it takes is a ‘how are you?’ to make a student feel seen, and subsequently change their outlook on the whole day. I am obviously lucky to have these teachers, and I can’t say the same for every school, but I think that teachers really can make a difference, if they care enough. I wouldn’t have said this a couple of years ago, because I felt like there was nobody I could go to during that time, but a few positive experiences have taught me to believe that people do want to help if they can.