Teachers need to be aware of their students’ unique needs, especially if they engage with students who experience mental health problems. Bipolar disorder is one kind of mental health illness wherein teachers need to make necessary adjustments with their teaching methods.
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition which is characterized by recurring episodes of mania and depression. Thus, there is a need for teachers and parents to provide the necessary support to students who have bipolar disorder. “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.” John Preston, PsyD said.
Intense feelings of sadness and worthlessness characterize the depressive episode. Those who experience depressive episodes may also entertain suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, an extreme sense of elevated mood characterizes manic episodes. People who experience manic episodes engage in rash decisions which are often unhealthy for a person.
So, how can teachers support students with bipolar disorder?
Teachers need to encourage students with bipolar disorder to engage in school activities. However, they must not be too controlling. Students with bipolar disorder need understanding from other people since there will be instances wherein they cannot fully engage with other people.
“Bipolar Disorder is a mental health issue where neurological differences can be observed between those who have and do not have this diagnosis.” Catherine “Katie” Ness, MA, LCPC explains. So to develop these students’ engagement with other people, teachers may suggest alternative teaching methods for social skills. These methods may include journals, how-to’s, and role-playing. Moreover, positive reinforcement from teachers must always be present.
Teachers must make sure that these students will have someone to talk to in case they are having manic or depressive episodes. More importantly, when students experience episodes in class, and they need to speak to someone, little to no invasive attention must be given to these students. Thus, there should be designated places for students who experience manic and depressive episodes to calm their senses.
Engagement With Guardians
The support system of someone who has bipolar disorder comes first from the family. Thus, teachers, as a secondary guardian of the students, need to engage with the students’ immediate family to be more aware of their concerns. This way, teachers will be mindful of the students’ preferred coping mechanisms in times when they experience manic and depressive episodes.
Individualized Educational Programs
Students with bipolar disorder may or may not need to have individualized educational programs or IEP. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that students with disabilities that negatively affect their studies can benefit from IEP.
There is a need to have separate conferences with the guardians and the student to have a successful IEP. Educational experts will conduct an assessment of the student’s performance in terms of academic and behavioral aspects. “We know many of the risk factors from poverty, trauma, maltreatment and social isolation through to bullying and the impact of excessive testing and unrealistic academic pressures,” says Katie Hunt, Clinical Psychologist
The team is composed of several medical professionals who will evaluate the student’s IEP. These professionals include teachers, psychologists, therapists, special educators, and other experts needed for the student’s IEP. These experts will assist in the creation of a conducive learning method and environment for the student with bipolar disorder.
Teachers need not separate students with bipolar disorder from the rest of the class. What these students need is understanding from parents, teachers, and peers without special treatment. Through encouragement, buddy system, and professional help such as IEP, these students will have the external support they need in school and life.