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What Teachers Need to Know about Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

What Teachers Need to Know about Mental Health: Bipolar Disorder

Good teachers are constantly on the lookout for mental health challenges in their students, such as symptoms of depression, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Along with these disorders, another important condition for teachers to watch for in their students is bipolar disorder.

Like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder is listed as a mood disorder in the DSM-V. Children with bipolar disorder cycle through two different kinds of cycles: depressive cycles and manic cycles. When in a depressive cycle, these students can look like a student with depression. However, when they move into a manic cycle, these children and teenagers display symptoms such as extreme restlessness, hyperactivity, rapid speech, short tempers, and grandiose sense of self. In a manic episode, there’s elevated risk for dangerous behavior. Common co-morbid conditions include Attention Deficit Disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse.

When untreated, students with bipolar disorder are at a high risk for dropping out of school and self-harm. Most often, symptoms for this disorder emerge in the mid to late teen years, but children of all ages can develop symptoms. All teachers should keep their eyes out for children and teens in their classroom who cycle between symptoms of depression and manic behaviors.

Treatment for bipolar disorder includes medication, counseling, and a structured daily life. Teachers can help students by referring students to the school counselor or telling parents if they display unusual behaviors, and by creating a classroom that’s predictable and a safe space for all students.

Children with a mental illness like bipolar disorder are at increased risk of being bullied in school for their differences. In order to make your school a safe place for all students, it’s important to train your students in teachers in sensitivity and promote anti-bullying initiatives. Contact us to learn more about how we can help make your school a bully free zone where students of all kinds can learn.

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