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Are Schools Feeling the Mental Health Deficits of COVID-19?

Disappointed university student leaning on whiteboard with closed eyes. Tired high school guy feeling failure in classroom. Side view of sad young college student trying to solve math problem.

As we’re well into the post-COVID 2021/22 school year, our schools had no idea what to anticipate, although we knew there would be some struggles. The impact of this mental health reaction has been felt significantly accordingly to a recent report on the PEW website written by Christine Vestal. Here is the introduction to this article:

After more than 18 months of school closures and social isolation, the nation’s more than 50 million public school children are mostly back at their desks. But two months into the fall semester, teachers and students already are saying they need a break.

The grief, anxiety and depression children have experienced during the pandemic is welling over into classrooms and hallways, resulting in crying and disruptive behavior in many younger kids and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. For many other children, who keep their sadness and fear inside, the pressures of school have become too great. 

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescents jumped 31% in 2020, compared with 2019. In February and March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51% higher among girls aged 12–17 than during the same period in 2019.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association declared that the pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health has become a national emergency.

On top of social isolation and family instability, the medical groups said, “more than 140,000 children in the United States lost a primary and/or secondary caregiver, with youth of color disproportionately impacted.”

Woman teacher sleeps with head resting, , copy space. Tired school teacher against a green blackboard, closeup

“Nearly every child in the country is suffering to some degree from the psychological effects of the pandemic,” said Sharon Hoover, co-director of the University of Maryland-based National Center for School Mental Health. “Suddenly everyone is talking about mental health. Parents, teachers and students are openly discussing it.”

The pandemic may subside, but its mental health effects will be around much longer, Hoover and other experts say.

“That’s why schools need to invest now in the mental health and well-being of our kids in a broad and comprehensive way—not just for children with learning disabilities and diagnosed mental health conditions, but for all students,” Hoover said.

This article looks at some of the strategies that schools throughout the country are using to help both students and teachers deal with some of the stressors that they are currently facing. Our school staff members who are working with students are feeling the impact of all that has happened. It may be time to intervene and give them some reprieve in their schedules.

This is a time for flexibility and support for both students and staff who teach and guide them. I hope we can learn from each other and find ways to help with the tremendous levels of stress that are such a prevalent part of our school environments currently.

Gerry Vassar

President/CEO

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