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School is one of our biggest socializing agents in American society. Some would say it’s a catalyst for social growth and an exercise in the critical understanding of the world. I think it’s safe to say there are a variety of student perspectives that make school exciting, boring in some cases, and even terrifying for others. Recently we have been racked by a pandemic that has changed our ability safely trust scholastic spaces. We’ve seen the mental health of our children decline because of their inability to interact with their friends or favorite teachers. There are children who even draw inspiration from their favorite bus drivers.
For some children, school was a haven from their home life where they experienced meals, social interaction, and positive reinforcement. A study done by the CDC reported that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our children in various ways. More than 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and nearly half of the students felt persistently sad or hopeless.1 That being said, the mental health of our students returning to school must be paramount.
Female students and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, other, or questioning (LGBQ+) reported disproportionate levels of poor mental health and suicide-related behaviors. For example, in 2021, 12% of female students, more than 25% of LGBQ students, and 17% of other or questioning students attempted suicide during the past year compared to 5% of their male peers and 5% of their heterosexual peers, respectively.2
In Georgia cities, technology was used in its place to offer free WiFi for homeschooling. Here in Atlanta, buses were parked in specific areas after being equipped with WiFi routers to provide internet service in areas that did not have access. Schools also worked to provide laptops and tools needed to conduct classes virtually. Now, moving back into the physical school system, our students, parents, teachers, and administrators have some challenges and opportunities ahead.
Children all over the country are struggling to adjust to going back into the classroom. For example, Mills Public Schools in Massachusetts returned to the physical classroom. While the teachers and staff were excited, they experienced students struggling with mental health issues. Elevated stress and anxiety, among other behavioral problems, created problems in classrooms and bigger challenges for teachers.3 Here in Georgia, counselors have reported a mixture of feelings among students returning to school. Some students have lost loved ones during the pandemic, some report fear of returning to the physical school environment, some are excited to see friends and trusted adults again upon their return to school classrooms.
As we prepare for our students to return to classrooms, school staff, teachers, and administration are also preparing to receive them. We have a variety of perspectives and thoughts on how to do so at this month’s collaborative meeting. This month we will be discussing the mental wellness of our students and what our schools are doing to support them. Join August 25th at 10 am to 11:30 am at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. I hope to see you there.
Please visit the North Fulton Mental Health Collaborative page for registration and more information.
1 SCHAEFFER, K. (2022, April 25). In CDC survey, 37% of U.S. high school students report regular mental health struggles during COVID-19. Https://Www.Pewresearch.Org/. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/04/25/in-cdc-survey-37-of-u-s-high-school-students-report-regular-mental-health-struggles-during-covid-19/ft_22-04-15_teenmentalhealth-2/ 2 SCHAEFFER, K. (2022, April 25). In CDC survey, 37% of U.S. high school students report regular mental health struggles during COVID-19. Https://Www.Pewresearch.Org/. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/04/25/in-cdc-survey-37-of-u-s-high-school-students-report-regular-mental-health-struggles-during-covid-19/ft_22-04-15_teenmentalhealth-2/- 3 Chatterjee, R. (2022, January 7). Kids are back in school — and struggling with mental health issues. GPB. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.gpb.org/news/shots-health-news/2022/01/07/kids-are-back-in-school-and-struggling-mental-health-issues