Social-emotional learning is all about teaching children how to manage their emotions so they can handle real-life challenges. While these skills can and should be taught in schools, these same schools can also be a significant source of stress for students on both academic and social levels. These high-pressure situations can increase students’ risk of anxiety, depression, suicide, and other mental health issues. Learning to manage stress from a young age helps students develop healthy coping mechanisms that will serve them throughout their lives.
The Rising Stress of Schools
According to a report by NPR, teenagers are more stressed out than ever about school performance. With pressure from teachers, peers, AP classes, and the never-ending piles of homework, it’s hard to balance the workload. School stress is combined with the natural social stresses of being a teenager—relationships, friendship drama, and a busy extra-curricular schedule. These high-stress levels put teens at risk for anxiety, depression, suicide, and other mental health issues. Without good coping mechanisms, teens will suffer socially, emotionally, and academically. They may even turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse, which can amplify the effects of pre-existing mental illnesses—alcohol, for example, is a depressive substance.
Learning to Cope with Stress through Social-Emotional Learning
With schools becoming ever-more stressful environments, students should be taught healthy ways to combat this stress. Social-emotional learning (SEL) is all about learning to recognize and manage your emotions and make responsible decisions despite the circumstances. In this way, SEL curriculum helps prepare students to manage themselves when life gets hard.
SEL can’t prevent students with genetic predispositions from developing mental illness, but it can teach them effective coping mechanisms. Not all students have the resources to seek personal therapeutic help, either. In a report for US News and World Report, Dr. Shimi Kang explains that teaching children effective coping skills through school-based SEL curriculum can help prevent them from developing extreme cases of anxiety and depression as young adults. It also reduces overall rates of mental illness, showing it serves as preventative health for some individuals.
Dr. Kang notes, “if we teach children and youth coping skills early, this alarming situation doesn’t have to become our new normal.”
Social Emotional Learning Helps Children Succeed
Empirical studies show that SEL programs help students learn to cope with depression. When students practice mindfulness, they develop skills of self-awareness and self-regulation. These skills are crucial to coping with high-stress environments, whether they be academic, social, or both. Students with strong SEL skills will be less likely to turn to dangerous coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol.
In addition, students involved in SEL curriculum tend to perform better academically—at a rate of 11%! They also show more engagement and interest in school. The rewards of mindfulness are widespread, whether or not a student is at high-risk for depression.
SEL Is Essential for Wellness
Some may consider SEL an unnecessary addition to schools, but its influence on mental health proves it should be integral to the curriculum. While not a replacement for professional mental health care, psychiatrists like Dr. Kang agree that SEL has the power to prevent some cases of depression and make others more manageable. Skills acquired through mindfulness and/or yoga help students reduce stress not just in school, but throughout their entire adult life. Learn more about Mindful Practices’ SEL curriculum today.