- Students were already at high risk for mental health problems, but the pressures of the pandemic are compounding the issue, Isaiah Pickens, a licensed clinical psychologist and trauma expert, wrote in EdSurge.
- It’s more difficult to detect mental health issues through virtual learning platforms, but Pickens wrote that the classic signs of mental distress remain the same: decreased participation in class, poor attendance, frequently reporting illness, incomplete assignments, negative interactions with parents on camera, and zoning out and not being mentally present. Students could also be experiencing short-term memory loss due to increased levels of stress.
- Routine check-ins with learners provide opportunities for conversations that can lead to the identification of issues. Teachers can also monitor students’ social media accounts if they detect reasons for concerns. Posts indicating a desire to harm themselves should be taken seriously.
Gen Z students are suffering more from suicidal ideation, anxiety and depression than any other generation, according to the American Psychological Association. Social isolation has become particularly challenging for students. This spring, about 15,000 high school students in Los Angeles didn’t log on for online classes. In New York, some of the top students disappeared after schools closed in March.
History suggests social isolation due to pandemics can cause spikes in suicide rates, which was the case after the Spanish Flu, which lasted from early 1918 to early 1920. Research also shows teens may suffer more mental health issues due to boredom, frustration, anger, isolation from friends and uncertainty about the future. Students of color and those who come from lower-income families are the most vulnerable.
The pandemic has made it more difficult for teens to get help as they continue to be socially distanced from support systems at school, such as teachers, coaches and counselors. The Department of Health and Human Services reports 40% of high school girls and 20% of high school boys feel sad or hopeless every day over a two-week period. Another 22% of females and 12% of males in that age group reported suicidal thoughts.
Many school districts, like Georgia's Fulton County Schools, is providing additional social-emotional support to students impacted by the pandemic, including home visits, connecting them with counselors, social workers and other mental health professions. Fulton County Schools launched the school year with four weeks of social-emotional learning lessons centered around managing stress, controlling emotions, accessing support systems and developing resilience.