For the last two years, nearly everyone has somehow been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. School-aged children are no exception. Studies have shown that mental health struggles brought on by the pandemic appear to be the most common affliction for them.
LET’S DIVE INTO THE NUMBERS
The American Psychological Association conducted a study of 107 high school students to assess the extent of any mental health struggles they may have experienced. This survey concluded that students of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds reported they had experienced some degradation in their mental health.
- 77.4% of White students
- 53.6% of Asian students
- 50% of Black students
This data makes it clear that the impact of the pandemic has been far-reaching and unpredictable.
WHAT ARE PARENTS NOTICING?
In April 2022, NPR and Ipsos asked parents if they had seen symptoms of mental illness or other behavior changes in their child(ren). Parents reported they had seen an increase in anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and attention disorders in their children.
- Increase in Anxiety: 19%
- Increase in Depression: 12%
- Increase in ADHD: 9%
- Increase in Another mental or emotional health issue: 6%
- Increase in A learning disability: 5%
With the increase in symptoms parents are seeing, 73% of parents admitted that their child would benefit from mental health counseling and 78% believe social and emotional wellness programs are beneficial.
WHAT SHOULD EDUCATORS BE LOOKING FOR?
While specific mental health issues can present in various ways, many symptoms can overlay. Consult with a school counselor, nurse, or administrator and the student’s parents if you observe one or more of the following behaviors:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still that puts the student in physical danger or causes problems in the classroom
- Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Drastic changes in the student’s behavior or personality
WHAT CAN SCHOOLS DO TO HELP?
Educators can often be the first people to notice the signs of mental health issues. It is important that schools find ways to support the mental health of all students, not just individual students who may exhibit behavioral issues. In March 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services shared a list of School-Based Mental Health Services resources that included everything from early care to emergency response.
By making a few changes and bringing awareness to teachers, staff, and administrators schools can create a space that cares for the emotional well-being of students that extends beyond the classroom. Here are a few things you can do to make that happen:
- Educate staff, parents, and students on symptoms of and options for help with mental health problems
- Teach and reinforce positive behaviors and decision-making
- Promote social and emotional competency and build resilience
- Help ensure access to school-based mental health supports
- Recognize when young people are at risk for or are experiencing mental health problems
- Identify how to intervene early and appropriately when there are problems
It is evident that COVID-19 has had extensive impacts on so many of our lives. The upheaval of the academic structure has been difficult for kids, and as teachers and students return to the classroom, it is vital that awareness of these mental health issues and the indicating behaviors are at the forefront.