In recent years, China has witnessed an increase in severe mental health problems among its citizens. Citizens’ mental health problems not only have an adverse impact on their own lives, but also impose a heavy burden on the country’s economic development and social progress. Most mental health problems begin in adolescence and may evolve into more serious psychological illnesses. Besides, many students’ mental health problems originate from schools. Therefore, paying attention to school mental health education, especially the mental health training for class headteachers who have the closest contact with students in the school, is of great importance for improving the mental health of students and even the mental health of residents.
This paper uses the 2014-2015 Chinese Education Panel Survey (CEPS) data to investigate the effect of mental health training for class headteachers on middle students’ mental health. We overcome the endogenous problem by exploiting the random assignment of students to classrooms within middle schools. The results show that class headteachers with mental health training can reduce students’ negative mental health scores by 0.22 standard deviations. Moreover, the results based on the quantile regressions suggest that mental health training for headteachers is more conducive to helping middle school students with severe mental health problems improve their mental health. Furthermore, mechanism analysis presents that mental health training for class headteachers has a positive effect on middle students’ mental health by improving the teacher-student relationship. About 39-40 percent of the impact of mental health training for middle school teachers can be attributed to the improvement of teacher-student relationship.
This paper may have the following contributions: First, despite the growing literature on the role of teachers’ characteristics in shaping students’ human capital, there is still a lack of empirical research on the impact of mental health training for teachers, especially class headteachers, on the mental health of students. This paper contributes to previous literature by providing a novel perspective on whether mental health training for class headteachers benefits students’ mental health. Additionally, it identifies the causal effect of mental health training for class headteachers by exploiting the random assignment of students to classrooms. Second, this paper investigates the potential mechanism of mental health training for class headteachers on middle school students’ mental health from three aspects: class headteachers’ teaching method, teaching style, and teacher-student relationship. In summary, this paper fills in the gaps in the existing literature regarding teachers’ characteristics in shaping students’ human capital.
This paper provides policy implications for school and class headteachers to reduce the mental health problems of middle school students. The results suggest that schools should actively organize class headteachers to participate in mental health training. Meanwhile, in addition to focusing on students’ test scores, class headteachers should take the initiative to receive mental health training, pay more attention to students’ mental health problems, and improve their relationships with students.