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Exploring Educator Mental Health Literacy: A Study to Inform Professional Learning Needs

Ely, Jennifer (2018) Exploring Educator Mental Health Literacy: A Study to Inform Professional Learning Needs. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Mental health issues have proven to be exceedingly prevalent in society. It has been reported that one in four Americans experience a mental illness in a given year, while the remaining will be exposed to a friend, family member, or colleague with a mental illness. With increased changes
and pressures in all aspects of life, approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders each year (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013). Educators may have a unique opportunity to recognize and support students who could be struggling with mental health issues. Exploring the perspectives of educators can provide important insight in the efforts to accurately assess their readiness and identify their specific training needs related to mental health promotion in school.

The purpose of this study was to explore educators’ understanding and awareness of mental health and how prepared they were to respond to issues concerning student mental health. In this study, a needs assessment framework was used to develop and implement an online inventory to teaching faculty in a small private school serving students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. All faculty in the school were targeted as participants for the needs assessment and 100% of the population completed the inventory. Frequency distributions were generated from their responses to evaluate the mental health literacy among educators at the school.

In the mid-1990s, Anthony Jorm and colleagues were struck by a contrast between the understanding and help-seeking behaviors for individuals with physical diseases and mental
health disorder. Multiple studies have found that the stigma associated with mental illness often prevents people from accessing treatment, particularly when compared to accessing physical health care (Knaak, Mantler, & Szeto, 2017). To draw attention to this neglected area, the term, mental health literacy, was coined and defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders which aid their recognition, management or prevention” (Jorm et al., 1997, p. 182).
This study, consistent with research previously done in search of self-ratings of understanding, awareness, and comfort levels for student mental health, revealed that these educators were aware of the mental health challenges students face and recognize identifying students in need of support services as an important part of their job. However, a portion of the participant educators reported feeling overwhelmed with having to deal with student mental health issues, and their responses also indicated uncertainty in recognizing such issues. Consistent with the literature reviewed, educators in this study reported a need for more support from colleagues and more training in the area of student mental health.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ely, Jenniferjenniferely@pitt.edujae39
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTananis,
Committee MemberBachman, Heather
Committee MemberKerr, Mary Margaret
Committee MemberTrovato, Charlene
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 November 2017
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 6 June 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 142
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: teacher children adolescent education
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 15:45
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 15:45


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