Supporting Mental Health in Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on students’ mental health, from coping with stress and anxiety about their health or the health of loved ones, isolation from friends, and now, a school year that, in many cases, looks very different than any they’ve experienced in the past.
All of these issues have a very real impact on students’ ability to succeed in school this year. I wrote in detail recently about the need for schools to be proactive about supporting students’ social-emotional health. However, our current environment presents some challenges such as:
1. Identifying mental health issues in a remote learning environment
As a former principal, I know that teachers and administrators are often the first line of defense to spot warning signs that students are suffering from mental health concerns. As we get deeper into the school year and the pandemic continues and many students remain in a distance learning environment, it will be more and more difficult to identify students who might be in need of help. For example, if a student is engaging in self-harm, it’s easier for them to hide it by simply turning off their camera. When teachers don’t see peer groups together, it is more difficult to detect if there are situations of bullying occurring.
- Significant changes in attendance, such as only showing up for certain hours of class, or not showing up at all
- Significant changes in how the student is attending class. For example, if they typically have their video on, and then suddenly start keeping it off
- Increased attention-seeking behavior during class such as clicking their mute button on and off during a session