It should not come as a surprise that after the extraordinarily challenging years of the coronavirus pandemic schools could use some extra attention when it comes to mental well-being among students and staff. School districts may have had such services in place before the onset of the global health emergency, but those services have gained more importance given the developments of the past few years.
A recent story by the Record-Journal’s Jessica Simms about local school districts included 2021 statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that can be seen as a warning: More than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health amid the pandemic, and 44% said they’d felt “sad or hopeless during the past year.”
These feelings, of course, are familiar to those of all age groups, but the well-being of young people ought to be of foremost concern — with them are the hopes for the future.
“I think since the pandemic, anxiety has been on the rise,” said Jeff Solan, Cheshire school superintendent. “There’s a lot of stress and sometimes it’s social anxiety after coming out of the isolation.”
In Cheshire classrooms, “mindful moments” are taken to help students, and there’s a month-long awareness challenge for school staff providing help with mindfulness and managing stress.
Other districts use similar efforts. Southington established a district-wide behavior team and uses a program by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Wallingford grade schools use Second Step, a program that “introduces children to identifying and managing their emotions, navigating social situations as well as citizenship,” said Aimee Turner, assistant superintendent for special education.
Meriden schools have hired school psychologists, social workers, counselors and, at two middle schools, deans of students who “have worked in supporting the students’ needs and are already making great connections,” said Patricia Sullivan-Kowalksi, assistant superintendent of student supports.
These and other efforts to help students should be seen as essential, because providing a positive place to learn has become more complicated because of the pandemic. Schools that are trying to take positive steps forward should be supported in the effort.