Updated: Jan 10
Mental health issues among students, teachers, and family members from diverse backgrounds is an issue that has long been neglected. The current pandemic has exacerbated the issue of mental health and presents challenges in truly assessing the mental wellbeing of educators and diverse students.
Being in quarantine, experiencing loss and illness has left many in an unfamiliar headspace. The 4-H National Council recently conducted a study of 1,500 teens in May. They reported that about 70% shared that they experienced depression, anxiety, and excessive stress. Another 61% of the participants shared that they have experienced increased loneliness since the pandemic.
If these mental health issues are not addressed in students, serious issues could result. Mental health problems can negatively affect a student's energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association.
All of these emphasize the importance of discussing mental health issues. Unfortunately, society has not deemed mental health as a human condition but instead a flaw. This adds to the difficulty of addressing mental health in a systematic way. Mental illness is an invisible yet tangible force. These societal and cultural perceptions must be overcome.
Adding to the existing societal and cultural perceptions that stifle a holistic approach to stemming mental illness is the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. The enemy has become even more hidden since school closed in March.
The pandemic revealed to us that families of color are less fortunate when it comes to social-emotional learning. It is important for people trying to address mental health issues to bear this fact in mind.
Teachers will face the challenging task of recognizing social-emotional needs within themselves and their students. It is important that educators develop their own sense of self. Checking in with your own mental health in this uncertain time is essential.
As we observe what has been happening among students as it relates to mental health, we can see that social-emotional learning is a critical component of teaching in 2021 and beyond.
For more discussions on this pressing subject, please listen to the Equity Elevator Podcast ‘Post Pandemic Educators’ Pre-Planning’ series. For more details, visit www.equityelevatorconsulting.com.