Preparing School Staff for Impacts of COVID-19 on Student Mental Health

Preparing School Staff for Impacts of COVID-19 on Student Mental Health

As the majority of schools plan to head back to in-person learning this fall, educators will be faced with balancing the academic recovery and mental health needs their students will be brining into the classroom. While many people are happily returning to “normal,” many students and staff continue to experience the lasting mental health effects of the pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19 on Student Mental Health

Dr. Scott Poland, nationally recognized crisis responder, suicide prevention and student mental health expert, and Vector Training course author, recently shared in a webinar we hosted that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Many teens have felt extremely isolated and reported hopelessness and depression.
  • The quarantine did not go well for all children.
  • Many children (and staff) lost a loved one due to the pandemic.
  • Many families experienced financial hardship.
  • Surveys of teens during only virtual leaning found many reported depression and frustrations with being asked to do homework after many hours already on the computer and some asked why can’t the homework be about self- care?

According to Dr. Poland, it will be more important than ever for school staff to be prepared to recognize signs of stress and potential warning signs of youth suicide, and have strategies and resources in place to address these issues, as they return this fall.

Signs of Student Stress

  • Anxiety, worry and fear
  • Feeling on the edge
  • Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels
  • Sleeping problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased use of drugs and alcohol

Warning Signs of Youth Suicide

  • Suicidal notes/texts/social media posts
  • Threats
    • Direct: “I want to die” or “I am going to kill myself”
    • Indirect: “No one will miss me” or “The world will be better without me”
  • Depression/Hopelessness
    • Loss of energy/lack of enthusiasm for life
    • Overwhelmed by pressure and competition
    • Risk-taking behaviors such as drinking and driving, gun play, alcohol and substance abuse
  • Plan/method/access
  • Dramatic changes in behavior
  • Giving away prized possessions/making final arrangements

Intervention Strategies for School Staff

School staff have made extraordinary efforts to support students during the unprecedented pandemic. Your children and students are looking to you to see how you are handling this very difficult and anxiety provoking time. Model coping and hope! Relationships are crucial. It is important to ensure that every student has a go-to-adult at your school. Specifically related to youth suicide, Dr. Poland makes these recommendations:

  • Do not be afraid to talk to students about suicide
  • Know the risk factors and warning signs
  • Begin and maintain the chain of supervision
  • Refer immediately and have student escorted to counseling office
  • Join with the counseling team to provide background information
  • The counseling team will ensure that parents are notified

On-Demand Resources to Support School Staff in Addressing Student Mental Health Needs

For additional strategies and resources to prepare school staff to address student mental health needs this fall, explore the series of on-demand webinars Vector Solutions has hosted with Dr. Poland.

Contact us for more information