This pandemic and the following events have affected us all in a multitude of ways. For many students and families, the impact goes beyond education; it affects their mental health. A study by Gallup has shown that in the U.S., Life Ratings have plummeted to a 12-Year Low. The disappointment from friends unseen, milestones quietly passing, and most recently, the tragic killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor; many students are left feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and isolated.
Dimensions of Equity & Trauma
For some, dealing with depression and long-term trauma was an issue long before the start of the pandemic. It has since exacerbated social-emotional challenges for students as well as family and faculty who are incapable of replicating a virtual version of the comprehensive setting provided in schools. Parents and educators are facing the barrier of economics in supporting current and future students academically and emotionally. Educational Equity and access have long been a hot topic in pedagogy, but the consequences of that economic divide have never been more evident before now. Not all students have the capability to stay connected remotely or the means to acquire school provided services such as meals and mental and behavioral supports without that infrastructure already in place. Now going into the summer months with an unclear plan for the next academic year and heightened civil unrest has left many students feeling inundated with uncertainties.
Some students who have access are now withdrawing and may be showing symptoms of more severe mental health issues and feelings of separation. Students often rely on school for structure and interaction with their peers, and with that no longer viable, some are retreating inwardly. Learning to support students under these diverse and varied emotional stresses will take some initiative and professional development from administrators to help navigate new difficulties for learners in and beyond school. Yet it's important to remember the resiliency students and schools have shown under such extraordinary circumstances. Teachers and students pivoted learning methods on the fly and got creative with virtual events like proms and graduations.
With everything going on, whole communities are doing their best to cope, and many are struggling with their mental health regardless of age. It's a time where we need to continually check in with each other and with ourselves. Practicing self-care and prioritizing our children's mental health during these trying times is paramount to continued growth and healing for us all.