Teachers are making youth mental health check ins part of their daily schedule in attempts to help struggling students.
As the new school year begins, students and families are eagerly learning about what the typical day will look like inside of their children’s class schedule. Students are looking at their schedules to see what time they will eat lunch, and how late in the day they will be working on math. But many are finding a new component within their day, and it centers around youth mental health awareness.
The pandemic exacerbated the need for teachers to focus on youth mental health in the school setting. Because of this, schools across the nation are including check-ins regarding the well-being of their students. At the center of this new practice, educators are optimistic it will open a doorway of communication between teachers and kids, and hopefully make them feel comfortable enough to reveal any hardships before they have the chance to turn worse.
While bolstering academic success is a major goal heading into this school year, some schools are starting the new academic year with more emphasis on youth mental health. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of the school day will be focused on feelings rather than core subjects. Instead, it is meant to ease students returning from years of school closures and COVID protocols back into the normal school routine, while making sure their social-emotional state is up for the tasks at hand.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is gaining popularity in public schools. In practice, the concept helps youth mental health efforts by having educators teach lessons that can help children comprehend their own emotions while learning to understand and feel empathy for others. Lately, this methodology has been ridiculed by conservatives, as they fear it is another push for social justice and equity, which may weave ideologies into classroom teachings. But to those educators seeing firsthand how much students have struggled this past year, it serves as coping methods that can assist students in the long run.
Schools are now realizing that in order to help children recover from learning loss suffered over the past few years, they must first help with youth mental health struggles. Depressed, suffering students are not going to be able to focus on their studies. Spending extra school time identifying those who need help will serve to get them back on a path to academic success.
To roll out these youth mental health check-ins, schools are looking to COVID relief funds to train and educate school staff. Some are using this money to hire more psychiatric support staff in schools. Some are adding healthcare services to school campuses. Others are paying for extensive training for current teachers to aid them in helping their students cope with their emotions.
The youth mental health crisis is dangerous and a serious concern to many. After the onset of the COVID pandemic, three adolescent national organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency over the uptick in serious crises. Suicide rates among children are up, including in Milwaukee, which saw a 40% increase in emergency room visits for child psychological issues since the pandemic began.
Not everyone agrees with the method, but there is no denying that youth mental health in America is a growing problem. Feeling that there is no better way to address the issue, schools are taking matters into their own hands, and finding ways to integrate daily social and emotional lessons between reading and math. Whether these added efforts will soon make a difference is yet to be seen.