In this unprecedented period of extended remote learning, the mental health and well-being of students has been a concern, from students feeling isolated and dealing with depression to handling social-emotional challenges and experiencing long-term trauma.
Tech & Learning recently discussed remote learning and mental health with Dr. Peter Faustino, a school psychologist for a public school district in Westchester County, New York, and Shawna Rader Kelly, a school psychologist in Bozeman Public Schools, Montana. Both are members of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
An evolving process. Being aware of equity and access in terms of students being able to stay connected remotely is an ongoing concern for all educators. Professional development in that regard will be necessary, and as the pandemic continues, mental health will be increasingly more of an issue as students try to navigate this unprecedented event.
Rules of engagement. One thing teachers and parents should be aware of is making sure that students who do have access continue to stay connected and engaged. Students who choose to not stay connected even though they can may be experiencing some mental health issues. For example, some students may sign on remotely, but not enable their video or audio, which makes it difficult to determine if they’re engaged in learning. Or they may be participating in class from their bed, which may not be the best learning environment and an indication of a mental health issue.
Families are struggling. Educators should realize that not only are students having a hard time but many parents are also having a tough time maintaining their mental health. Consequently, school psychologists often find themselves counseling entire families. Parents of high school students are also assuming that because their children are old enough to to be self-sufficient when it comes to school, they aren’t having any issues if they don’t hear from them throughout the day. It’s important for educators to try to create some of the small human interaction that normally happens during the school day.
Shining a light on school’s importance. Besides an education, students often rely on school for structure, social-emotional learning, interpersonal interactions, meals, mental and behavioral supports, and other services, and students are missing out on those, which can lead to mental health issues. Many parents are not capable of replicating that comprehensive learning environment, and students may be struggling because of it. Educators need to recognize the context students are living in, and that not every family has the same resources to support remote education.