Teachers’ perceptions of student mental health in eastern China: A qualitative study
Sidibe, Aissata Mahamadou
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Yao, M., Kadetz, P., Sidibe, A.M., Wu, Y., Li, J., Lyu, J., Ma, C. and Hesketh, T. (2021) 'Teachers’ perceptions of student mental health in eastern China: A qualitative study', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(14), article no. 7271.
In China, primary and secondary school teachers, known as ban zhu ren, have pastoral responsibility for the students in their class. The aim of this preliminary study is to identify how ban zhu ren perceive the mental health of their students, and how they have acted on these perceptions. Content analysis was used to organize the data and distinguish categories or themes derived from in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted with 27 ban zhu ren from Zhejiang and Anhui provinces. Frequencies of informant responses were used to identify the areas of agreement and disagreement across identified categories and themes among the informants. The results illustrate that the informants consider issues, such as not paying attention in class (n = 14), not getting along well with classmates (n = 12), and excessive gaming (n = 11) to be indicative of mental illness, although these would commonly be considered normal adolescent behaviors. Fifteen informants admitted that they found it difficult to work with student mental health issues, and 18 felt they had inadequate or non-existent training. However, all informants stated that they had intervened with what they perceived to be students’ mental health issues, although only 9 informants had referred students for professional help. The informants reported that they were reluctant to provide referrals, due to the stigmatization they believed students would experience if given a diagnosis of mental illness. We conclude that among our informants there is a lack of agreement on what behavioral and mental health issues are, and that informants may be confusing what are, in actuality, non-conformist or non-compliant (yet often normal), adolescent behaviors with mental illness due to insufficient mental health training.