As we make preparations for the various ways of returning to school in person, we must also review the impact that coronavirus has had on students, families, staff, and administration.
Our return to school plan must take into account the impacts we see and lessons we have learned over the past year, and do what is necessary to support students and staff. Case in point: in Clark County, Nevada, the Superintendent of Schools is trying to find a path to reopen school buildings due to the rise in students’ suicides and suicidal ideation.
Many federal, state, and local agencies (along with trusted educational publications) have been publishing guidelines that highlight the need to provide mental health services currently and in preparation for the return to school. Here are just a few of the factors contributing to the need for mental health support as part of the return to school plan:
- Students and their families, as well as staff, are experiencing an unprecedented level of stress from a multitude of areas.
- Families are facing job, food, and shelter instability.
- Staff are overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of their students, their own families, and themselves simultaneously.
- Administrators are managing the health and welfare of staff, families, and communities.
- In the midst of all of this is grief. Grief over the tragic loss of family and friends from illness, and from the loss of what was considered normal.
- Teachers are facing their fears, including having full class sizes again, uncertainties, and how their professions may change.
To make matters worse, there is now a shortage of private therapists. If schools are not meeting some of these needs, our students and staff will be left without the support they need.
How to prepare for the transition back to school
The first step is to identify what we have learned during the pandemic that we can use in our preparation for the transition back to school and the semblance of normal. Some of these strategies can help us continue to take care of the ongoing needs that we face.
Virtual counseling has allowed more families to participate, making them a more active part of their child’s progress. With virtual counseling, adults can also be more engaged in counseling as it is more convenient in their schedules without the need for travel time. That helps them make time for their own mental health needs.
Mental Health and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) have moved to the forefront of professional development and the provision of services during the pandemic. We now truly understand that mental wellness is essential for academic progress.
It’s important to remember that students may not be able to articulate their needs. On-site mental health experts, like Thrive Clinicians, can act as the interpreter for students to understand their own difficulties as well as for staff members who work with students every day. Through their ability to provide psychoeducation and interventions (both virtual and in-person), the Thrive Clinician is the bridge to successful social, emotional, academic, and behavioral growth.
As more schools begin providing mental health support services to students and staff, we can build a culture of mental wellness and impact every area of growth.
To learn more, here’s a helpful resource: our guide to Proactive Mental Wellness in Schools.