It’s no surprise that mental health challenges can often impact children’s developmental outcomes. It’s detrimental not only to their mental wellbeing, but physical health, social relationships, and academic performances. According to Children First Canada, hospitals have reported a 100 per cent increase in admissions for mental health problems and 70 per cent of children indicate the pandemic has affected their mental health.
Due to school closures, kids were left without physical access to mental health professionals commonly available in schools. As we approach the one-month mark of students returning to in-person learning, the joint efforts of schools and families is essential to battle the mental health challenges they are still facing today.
The Crisis in Schools
Amid the pandemic, students’ lives were heavily disrupted with ongoing change. Classes moved to online, children watched their family members get sick, or lose their jobs, and many experienced a decline in a number of mental health sectors including depression, anxiety, irritability and attention span.
Now that kids have returned for a “normal” school year, things seem to be going back to the way they were. But the reality is, this past month has been anything but normal for children.
Children may be feeling a whole new set of stressors that impede them from being able to have a successful school year. Worries of bringing germs home, stress about new school routines, anxiety from the possibility of another wave and more can affect their mental wellbeing, especially for those who have pre-existing conditions or who are undiagnosed.
The Role of Schools in Mental Health
Mental health support in schools contributes greatly to children’s current and future mental health. Schools have the capabilities to grow awareness of the importance of mental health, eliminate the stigma and promote positive strategies to combat these issues.
Kids are already facing too many challenges as they grow up including bullying, systemic racism, social exclusion and more. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s important to prioritize mental health needs so students can remain healthy and happy. Here are some reasons why mental health education and support should be readily available in all schools:
- Mental health education increases awareness: Since students spend so much of their daily life at school, mental health education should logically be taught there. Breaking down misconceptions around mental health and learning that certain actions/behaviors towards others can negatively impact someone’s life is crucial for the cycle to break.
- It teaches children, parents and educators how to recognize signs of mental health issues: Recognizing warning signs is not always easy. If mental health problems are left untreated, it can significantly impact the way a child grows and learns. Knowing and understanding signs will allow you to use appropriate strategies to cope with it.
- Allows for early intervention: In this tech-dependent world, children rely heavily on communicating with friends on their devices. Netsweeper’s onGuard has the ability to identify early signs of students who may be facing mental health challenges. With specific categories that detect suicide, cyberbullying, violence and more, this platform can quickly identify when a student is at risk.
By: Natasha Pande