Graduation Date

5-2020

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Education

Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Whitney Hoyt, MS

Abstract

Previous research shows that anxiety and depression in adolescents is a growing problem. If left untreated, mental health problems can damage both academic success and adult life. Teachers are on the front line, meeting afflicted students every day, and are therefore ideally placed to identify students in need, to refer help and to provide ongoing support. The question under investigation is whether schools and teachers are equipped to meet the challenge. Previous studies have focused on high school, but most mental health issues manifest during middle school. Previous studies have utilized quantitative methodology, thereby missing the opportunity to gain a deeper qualitative understanding from the teachers on the front line. In contrast, this study adopts a mixed-method study of middle school teachers using quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews, in order to inform policies and practices that will increase educational equity for students with mental health issues. The findings show that teachers, administrators and even guidance counselors were neither trained nor given adequate support in coping with mental health issues; yet creative teachers nevertheless managed to generate successful ad hoc strategies for at least some students. Furthermore, successful strategies in the classroom benefited all students, not just those suffering. A systematic approach to training, and to identifying, referring and supporting students with anxiety and depression, would both lessen the load on the individual teacher and improve equity for a larger range of students.

IRB Number

10828

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