After years of virtual learning, moms and dads are concerned about students adapting to the sudden change and stress of in-person learning. This transition has overwhelmed many students who struggle with mental health problems, including stress, anxiety and behavioral issues. But what about teachers? They are equally as important and a key component in helping children cope with mental wellness.
Addressing Student Mental Health
Let’s be honest – we all know the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in mental health issues amongst children, especially students, making the need for mental health resources more urgent than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), data shows that the number of emergency visits in relation to mental health crises has had a significant rise amongst children since the pandemic started. In 2020, mental health related emergencies rose by 24 percent in children ages five to 11, and 31 percent of students ages 12 to 17.
So, what can we do to empower schools and students to be proactive about mental health? In order to address the challenges youth are facing, we need to create a positive and safe school environment to show that mental health matters:
- Remove stigma around mental health: Have open discussions about mental health where students and educators can discuss their challenges. Normalize mental health and reinforce that those who are struggling with it does not mean that they are damaged.
- Use technology tools: Netsweeper’s onGuard platform provides AI monitoring to help schools detect signs of bullying and other harmful student behavior.
- Develop anti-bullying policies: Create programs and training for students and teachers on how to prevent harm as a bystander.
- Make it okay to ask for help: Encourage the idea that asking for help is normal and available. It is important that students know that seeking help is the first step toward self-care.
Teachers’ Mental Health has Also Suffered
Being a teacher is a stressful job, even before the pandemic. But now, it has become even tougher – longer work hours; bouncing from online-teaching, to in person, to hybrid; and struggling to keep students engaged has taken a huge toll on teachers and their mental health. According to a study, during the pandemic, K-12 teachers were significantly more likely to feel stressed, burned out and anxious than other government-sector employees.
Teachers are no strangers to challenges. But through the pandemic they have juggled more responsibilities and have adjusted to new situations often with very little resources. Here are some ways we can support our teachers and make their mental health a priority:
- Be open about mental health: Even leaders struggle with mental health. Sharing challenges they may be facing and self-care practices sends a strong message that mental health struggles are normal.
- Maintain ongoing systems of support: Create strong social-emotional support programs for teachers and staff. These can even be a virtual group or call lines that encourage teachers to connect with other colleagues and support resources.
- Recognize teachers needs: Mental health issues are not always easy to recognize and can often be overlooked. Ensure that schools or districts provide teachers access to adequate mental health benefits, such as counseling, in order to support their mental wellbeing.
- Have frequent check-ins: A key factor to good mental health is a healthy workplace. Have frequent meetings that include emotional check-ins and supportive responses that provide opportunities for teachers to engage in conversation about each other’s wellbeing.
Students and teachers’ wellbeing, like any challenge, requires consistency and commitment in order to make the improvements that are needed. One of the most impactful ways you can support them is to enhance the knowledge, resources, technology and training they need to support themselves and each other.