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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. 

Joe Laramie and Holly Kelly recently shared several things teachers should watch for, including: 
  • 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
2. Use of paper-based systems 

Many schools still rely on paper-based systems to record concerns, which is an antiquated way to do business and also can prevent timely intervention. After all, it does no one any good if a teacher notices a concern and wants more background, but the student’s records are locked in a filing cabinet and the school is shut down due to COVID. This is a serious problem and one that we can address fairly easily simply by adopting the right technology.

Embracing technology

We live in an increasingly technology-driven world and schools should take advantage of the tech tools available to support student mental health.  I recently discovered a great new free tool from Impero Software called Impero back:drop that helps schools keep track of concerns. Impero back:drop allows authorized school staff members to record any concerns they have about student wellbeing. They can also access and share histories for each student in order to get a full picture of that student’s health and wellbeing. It eliminates the need for paper-based reporting systems and can be used whether students are learning at school or at home.

While Impero offers Impero back:drop free, they also offer a premium suite of student safety tools, including tools that let teachers view the students’ screens and tools that will alert school officials if students are typing certain keywords that could indicate concerns about self-harm, cyberbullying or other safety issues.

We live in an increasingly technology-driven world – made even more so with the advent of COVID-19  – and it’s important to have digital tools to support all aspects of education, including mental health and wellness so we can address any concerns in a timely manner and help students be successful in this very different school year and beyond, whatever the future holds.