A study in January 2022 was published in JAMA Pediatrics confirmed what many faculty, administrators and support staff already knew: school closures, training disruptions and a pandemic year have come together to create an alarming mental health crisis among teenagers.
The study found that up to 60 percent of students experience “severe stress,” including anxiety and depression. The results resonated with recent ones American Psychological Association (APA), which found that more than 80 percent of teens experienced “more intense stress” during a pandemic.
In other words, as noted by Dr. Vivek Merty, U.S. Surgeon General, “Mental health problems in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression and suicidal thoughts – and their numbers have increased over the past decade.
To support students in this uniquely challenging time, schools are implementing a variety of discontinuing solutions, including short-term closureto help relieve stress while diverting resources, adjusting curricula, expanding care options to improve student learning outcomes and mental health.
Each of these efforts is wonderful, but it is unlikely they will provide the tools children need to develop alone. However, when schools eliminate barriers to accessing support, streamline adaptation to maximize resources, and expand collaboration between support systems, they can most effectively help students achieve holistic health.
Eliminate barriers to support services
Asking for help is hard. It requires tremendous courage, the right ability and sensitivity, three ingredients that too often are a hint to students. Thus, when a student reports the need for a teacher, coach, counselor, administrator, social worker, or other trusted adult, schools need a safe and secure process to share this information with qualified support services.