One of the primary realizations school districts are having in the wake of COVID-19 is the heightened need for student mental health support. According to an analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health related visits to the ER between April and October of 2020 increased by 24% for ages 5-11 and 31% for ages 12-17. A 2020 survey conducted by Gallup also revealed that 30% of parents felt their children had experienced trauma as a result of school closures, social distancing, and other pandemic related incidents. Additionally, continual political turmoil and racial injustices throughout the past year have also contributed to poor student mental health, with the highest rates of depression among youth who identify as more than one race.
Over the past decade,
suicide rates among invdividuals 10-14 have increased exponentially, with a 57.4% jump from 2007 to 2018. The Clark County School District in Las Vegas, NV experienced 18 student suicides within a nine month period last year. The youngest of these students was just 9 years old.
Suicidal ideations continue to escalate for college-age students as well. The CDC reports that 75% of polled 18-24 year olds experienced at least one adverse mental health symptom during the pandemic and 25% seriously contemplated suicide. A survey of 33,000 American college students conducted by Boston University last fall further revealed that 50% of individuals polled were experiencing anxiety and/or depression.
Measures to improve mental health
Even in states with the greatest access, it’s estimated that 38% of depressed youth are not receiving the mental health services they need. As institutions attempt a return to “normalcy” in-person, there is a need for improved mental health systems and an increased emphasis on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Many of these programs have developed as a result of recent federal funding through the American Rescue Plan and differ depending on geographic location.
In Las Vegas, to combat the disheartening increase in youth suicides, multiple schools in the Clark County district began a pilot program that provided face-to-face counseling for troubled students with trained educational mentors. Since forming, the program has seen 30 successful interventions with students contemplating suicide.
In New York City, teachers will be expected to screen their students for mental health needs in the approaching school year. The NYC education department also plans to hire additional professionals to mitigate mental health needs including 500 new social workers, 90 school psychologists, and 30 family support staff members for 270 high needs schools.
In Houston, Texas, the push toward SEL programs preceded COVID-19. Now part of the new New Caney Independent School District curriculum, staff and administrators believe the SEL program aided students regarding mental health concerns throughout the pandemic.
Supporting students AND teachers with ConexED
As schools rush to address the mental health needs of their students, they should also be conscientious of their faculty. A Gallup poll found that 46% of teachers report high levels of stress on a daily basis in the classroom. This stress not only negatively impacts teacher performance, but the performance of students as well. Oftentimes, unmanaged stress among teachers can also lead to a higher turnover, which significantly lowers student achievement and continuity in relationships between students, teachers, and the remaining community.
The solution to aiding student mental health without compromising the health of supporting educators is consolidating support to one location, enabling easy communication between students and mental health counselors.
The ConexED platform helps schools meet their students wherever they are – in school or on their device – in a way that eliminates barriers and ensures privacy, safety, and security. Using the ConexED student directory, students can easily locate the contact cards for their institution’s mental health personnel and support staff, initiating conversations immediately via the “Open Door” chat feature. Providing easy navigation to student services not only empowers students to seek support, but alleviates the added stresses of support networks by consolidating messaging to one documented location.
“We will not recover sufficiently from this pandemic long-term unless we address our mental health with the same urgency and attention as our physical health.”
Using the ConexED meeting notes feature, teachers and instructors can record vital information from their interactions with students and send a referral to their mental health peers for immediate follow up. These student records are secure using FERPA and HIPAA compliance standards, and provide vital insight into the student experience to ensure continuity of student health care throughout the course of their education.
The need for student mental health support has never been greater. Allow students easier access to critical school-based mental health programs and workforce training to ensure all students feel supported and can access services during their time of need.