“Every single teacher should have some level of first-aid-level understanding of kids' health, social work, and mental health,” she told EdSurge. “Because life happens as learning is happening, and we are the trusted adults in these kids' lives. And we want to do right by them, and the kids are trusting us to know how to take care of them.”

The need for such varied skills has only gotten more pronounced in recent years, she argues, in these times of “political division, racial violence, extreme rhetoric, intensifying storms, mass shootings, economic crises, global pandemics and more.”

EdSurge connected with Krauss to talk about her argument, and about the challenges of talking about the social-emotional needs of children at a time when some politicians have pushed back against the idea. Krauss is the author of a new book, “Whole Child, Whole Life: 10 Ways to Help Kids Live, Learn, and Thrive.”

EdSurge: You say in your book that all teachers need to be able to deliver “mental health first aid.” Why, and what do you mean by that?

Stephanie Malia Krauss: We have to recognize that if we're teaching students, or we're an education leader in any adult role in a school, that kids are in our care, and that they spend so much time in our buildings and they're in our classrooms, that life happens while they're there. So not only are they learning and getting through content, but mental health challenges are going to show up while they're in school and during a school year or a semester.

And the reality is that our mental health issues among kids are showing up earlier and more intensely than we've ever seen before [since the pandemic].

There’s a program called Mental Health First Aid that is a free training that you can bring into your school, and young people can be trained in it. They have a high school version.

In the book I also talk about “emotional wound care” — thinking about the fact that kids get their feelings hurt more than they get their bodies hurt at school. And how do we put in actual practices in the same way we think about brain breaks. What are the mechanisms in a school day that allow us to provide emotional wound care?

Some of that is just going one step beyond things like mindfulness, which has picked up traction in the last few years, to stopping and doing a breathing check. How are kids breathing? Can they take a couple deep breaths? Do they know how to manage if their breathing is shallow or too fast because of different emotions that are connected there?

And then there is emotional hygiene. So we have regular hygiene, like brushing your teeth, and having opportunities to work into the day for your social-emotional learning programming … or advisory opportunities for kids to figure out what are the habits that help them to feel good and help them to prevent things from happening and to protect them when bad things are happening and be prepared if something challenging were to arise.

Read the full article about mental health by Jeffrey R. Young at EdSurge.