Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Susan Rodger
Early identification and access to appropriate supports can improve the trajectory of childhood mental illnesses. Schools and educators have consistently been identified as having a significant role in both mental health promotion efforts as well as the identification of emerging mental health concerns amongst students. Equipping teachers for this role through professional development related to mental health literacy (MHL) is essential in ensuring their success. Closely tied to mental health is a sense of safety, and children who feel unsafe at school may have greater difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviour and be less available for learning. Utilizing a trauma-and-violence-informed-care (TVIC) framework within the education system may help schools provide safe places for all students, including those exposed to trauma, structural violence and experiencing mental health concerns. Initial teacher education offers a natural opportunity to prepare future educators with the knowledge, skills and self-efficacy needed to create learning environments that are safe, equitable and meet the needs of all students, including those with mental health concerns and/or the experience of trauma and violence. A mandatory, online mental health literacy course was utilized to provide instruction in MHL and TVIC to Bachelor of Education students (n=287) at a large Canadian university. Pre and post-test measures were used to capture knowledge gains with respect to mental health literacy, attitudes towards trauma-and-violence-informed-care and self-efficacy for utilizing inclusive teaching practices. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) revealed a significant effect of time across measures, indicating that knowledge gains were made. There was no significant effect of previous learning on the measures of interest, which suggests that knowledge gains were made regardless of participants’ previous mental health knowledge. These findings highlight the importance of including these topics within initial teacher education. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Summary for Lay Audience
The majority of mental illnesses first emerge in childhood and adolescence. Further impacting mental health concerns amongst children and youth is experiencing trauma and or/violence. A number of barriers within the current mental healthcare system make it difficult for the majority of children experiencing mental health concerns to access treatment. Schools and educators have consistently been identified as having a significant role in promoting the mental health of students and identifying and supporting students who may be at risk for developing a mental health concern and/or who have been exposed to trauma. Equipping teachers with knowledge about mental health and the impact of exposure to trauma and violence, as well as the skills required to support students with these experiences is necessary to ensure success. The present study evaluates the knowledge and belief outcomes of an online mental health literacy course for pre-service teachers in the second year of the Bachelor of Education program at a large, central Canadian university. The course features interactive and diverse learning modalities in order to provide pre-service teachers with instruction in mental health literacy and trauma-and-violence-informed-care. Measures were obtained at the start of the course and again after its completion in order to determine whether there were any changes in pre-service teachers’ knowledge on the topics of interest. The results indicate that knowledge gains were made in pre-service teachers’ mental health literacy, attitudes towards trauma-and-violence-informed-care, and their beliefs about their ability (self-efficacy) to effectively teach students with mental health concerns. Furthermore, results indicate that knowledge gains were made regardless of pre-service teachers’ prior knowledge about mental health. These findings highlight the importance of including mental health literacy and trauma-and-violence-informed-care as topics within initial teacher education. The implications these findings have for students, teachers as well as educational policy and practice are discussed.
Bird, Richelle L., "Standing on the forefront of school mental health: Building upon capacity in teacher candidates through mental health literacy and trauma-and-violence-informed-care" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 6931.