Back-to-School 2020

Back-to-School 2020: Coping During COVID-19

This school year is bringing on challenges like no other. As a result of the pandemic, schools throughout the country are wrestling with at-home learning, traditional in-school learning, or a hybrid of the two. And everyone is wrestling with worry and uncertainty. At MHAoPC, we have been monitoring the effects of the pandemic. Here are some things we have learned:

  • Young people are experiencing more anxiety and depression related to the pandemic than any other age group.
  • Students of color are at particular risk, both because of historic racial inequities and because so many of the realities of racism have come to the surface during the summer months.
  • Many young people are also experiencing symptoms of other serious mental health conditions, including psychosis.
  • Students with symptoms of depression are reporting frequent thoughts of self-harm.

MHA has developed its 2020 Back to School Toolkit with this and more in mind to help students, parents, and school personnel navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19. Many children who return to school will be lonely, having been isolated for months. Many who remain at home will feel even lonelier and more isolated as they see members of their peer group out and about. Loneliness can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Depression, anxiety, and fear can also increase. That is true for age groups.

This means that this year, we all – parents, teachers, caregivers, students – need to attend to our mental well being more conscious than ever before. We hope these resources will help. Please use and share it freely with others. And if you think you or someone you care about needs more help than this, start by taking an anonymous screening at www.mhascreening.org, and get connected to even more information and
resources that will help.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a huge toll on not just the physical health but the mental health of the nation. As we enter a new, very uncertain academic school year – it’s important for parents, caregivers, and school personnel to know the signs that a young person is struggling with his or her mental health. We know that stress and anxiety can be common during the school year for students, but with the pandemic upon us, it’s even more important to pay attention.

For those who are physically going back to schools, the anxiety and fear is palpable – and simply navigating the uncertainty can feel overwhelming. And for those who are learning virtually, too much isolation can be harmful. Research shows that chronic loneliness, which many of us are feeling these days with stay-at-home orders can translate to poor sleep, high blood pressure, greater risk of suicidal ideation, and even alcohol and drug use. Depression and anxiety have also increased in the months since the pandemic began. Half of all mental health disorders begin by the age of 14, and about 75 percent begin by the age of 24. But it’s also important to know that mental health issues are common and treatable – you don’t have to suffer in silence! Know the signs and symptoms of mental health issues so that you can seek help for you or someone you care about.

Free, confidential, and anonymous screening tools are available at www.MHAScreening.org to check in on symptoms and to find resources to help. Just like physical health, taking care of mental health struggles early can help to prevent more serious problems from developing in the future. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health problem, it is important to act before Stage 4. Start the conversation. Seek help from a trusted adult. Remember there is nothing to be ashamed of and that there is help and hope.

There are also serious signs that someone is in crisis and needs more immediate help. These include thoughts or plans of hurting oneself or another person. If you think a child or teen is in immediate danger of taking suicidal action, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Their trained crisis counselors can help you find local resources or suggest next steps. You can also look up information for a local mobile crisis team, psychiatric hospital, or psychiatric unit and call or go to the hospital for immediate support.

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