The 2020 “back to school” climate is certainly different than in previous years. With health being the main concern during this COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have opted to participate in virtual learning as an alternative to in person learning, while other schools are using a combination of these. Regardless of each school district’s re-opening plan, our nations youth are stressed, along with those supporting them. Thankfully, there has been a lot of thought put into helping youth through mental health struggles this year.
Mental Health America (MHA), a national organization specializing in mental health, has produced a “Back to School 2020 Toolkit”, which is one of the many online resources to reference when preparing youth for returning to school. This toolkit offers a mental health assessment, mental health tips for students, parents, and teachers, and physical health tips that comply with the CDC COVID-19 guidelines. The toolkit also includes a drop in article to include in an e-blast or school newsletter along with classroom printouts for coping with COVID.
Over the past few months, research has been done on how the pandemic is affecting the general population, but especially youth. MHA found has reported four significant findings:
Youth are experiencing more anxiety and depression related to the pandemic than any other age group.
Due to the current events happening around the world, youth of color are particularly at risk.
Youth are experiencing various other serious mental health conditions.
Youth with symptoms of depressions are reporting more thoughts of self-harm during this time.
Much of this has been contributed to isolation and loneliness. For those who will be returning to the classroom, fear of contracting COVID-19 and keeping their family and friends safe, may cause more stress and anxiety. This will also prove to be true for teachers and parents. Here are some tips to help keep student, teacher, and parent mental health in check:
Feel your feelings – Let yourself feel whatever emotion it may be. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be angry.
Practice mindfulness – Tune into your emotions if you are feeling overwhelmed. Take a moment to close your eyes and focus on taking deep breaths. Meditation is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness every day.
Keep up normal habits and routines when possible – Try to do things you would normally do every day, whether that be going to sleep at a certain time or chatting with a friend. Routines tell your brain that you know what to expect in a given week, which is why change can be difficult.
Think ahead – If you have had events cancelled, think ahead to plan fun virtual or small socially distanced events with friends!
Stay connected – Keep your support network strong by keeping in touch with friends and family, even if you cannot catch up in person. Socialization is important.
Most importantly, look for signs of mental illness at all times and take care of each other. To get more information and download the Back to School 2020 Toolkit visit www.mhanational.org/back-school. If you are in need of help, reach out to a mental health professional or visit www.samhsa.gov or https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/quiz/index.htm.