HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Fifty thousand Connecticut public school teachers from two unions were asked 23 questions for a one-of-a-kind survey.

One of the topics covered was mental health.

“Students are in dire need of assistance,” said fifth grade teacher David Hayes.

Many of these teachers are seeing this problem as early as pre-k.

Some said they need more resources and how to deal with these issues, and others say there's a difference between behavior and mental health.

“I think if parents knew what was really going on in the classroom, they would be quite shocked,” Hayes said.

He’s in his 20th year teaching, and shed some light on the challenges he’s seen when it comes to students’ mental health, saying even elementary-aged students are having issues.

“They don't know how to behave. They've never been in a setting where they had to perform a task, or a haven't been properly socialized so they yell out, throw things, knock things over and that point the teacher has to evacuate the class,” Hayes said.

The survey done in partnership with the state’s two teachers unions shows there are clear concerns.

Of the 1,400 teachers responding, almost 78 percent of teachers say there is not sufficient support for students' mental health needs at their school.

Eighty-eight percent say they don't feel equipped to deal with students' mental health challenges.

“In terms of school psychologist or counselor, there's one for every several hundred students and it's simply just not enough. Over the last 5-10 years, the uptick in student behavior has really increase dramatically and these people are spread very thin,” Hayes said.

For other professionals in the field, they say this could be more of a behavioral issue that might stem into mental health.

“If you're talking diagnosed mental health, that's a different story from what I think teachers may be talking about which is behavioral health, and that is students coming into our classrooms affected by trauma, affected by circumstance beyond their control, which are causing them to act out in the classrooms,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director for the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

She said the issue is currently being talked about in the state legislature.

Donald Williams of the Connecticut Education Association said it's a topic that's not going away.

“I think teachers want to see this problem addressed and not swept under the rug. And by addressed, I mean the early screenings to identify issues and rectify those where possible, partnerships with social service organizations that can provide counseling in the school, work with parents and address the needs of those students and not to neglect the needs of school psychologists, counselors and social workers. Very important to have those resources with the student and with the parents,” Williams said.

Marc Brackett has been researching the role of emotions in children for more than 20 years, and said he understands the challenges in the classroom, saying supporting a child is key.

“Just having a supportive environment and a non-judgmental adult in your surroundings is actually a buffer against stress. So, it's actually not providing support but the child knowing that the adult teacher, parent who they are with provides unconditional support and love. That's a factor in managing the child's trauma and stress, anxiety and even frustration,” Brackett said.

Teachers say this issue should be at the center of everyone's mind.

“We know this issue is a public health issue. I think you have to get everyone involved, your community, the teachers, unions involved. You have to get the state involve where they look for this funding. Because stuff gets cut and gets cut. This has become such a huge issue that money should be earmarked for the more important,” said Stephanie Wanzer, a special education teacher.

Copyright 2019 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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