A new school year can bring a number of anxieties for students, especially considering we are starting our fourth school year with a global pandemic. Mental health has long been a concern for adults as well as children, and the COVID-19 pandemic, school shootings and other societal concerns continue to exacerbate the need for better mental wellness support in school and beyond. Here are some tips for how we can support student mental health in Greenfield, including the connection to resources you can find from our Healthy365 Support Navigators.
How are students feeling lately?
According to a recently published CDC study entitled, “Mental Health, Suicidality, and Connectedness Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic” found that 44 percent of high school students reported “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” during the past year, when served between January-June 2021. These persistent feelings were defined as feeling so sad or hopeless nearly every day for at least two weeks that it prevented them from doing some of their usual activities.
Even before the pandemic, a major increase in mental health concerns was found among students across the country from 2009-2019, including “having persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (26.1% to 36.7%), having seriously considered attempting suicide (13.8% to 18.8%), and having attempted suicide (6.3% to 8.9%).” However, these concerns for poor mental health have been found to be significantly less prevalent in students who are well-connected to their loved ones, friends and others at school.
Communicating with your student
Of course, we’ve all heard before the benefits of good communication with our children and/or students, but studies can directly correlate “connections to trusted adults and supportive peers” with better mental health and reduced risk for suicide or other harmful behaviors. Isolation can cause a snowball effect of more isolation, shame or poor mental health, so staying in frequent communication with your student is very important. Talking in the car can be a great way to get your student to open up, since there isn’t as much pressure to maintain eye contact.
Making them aware of multiple approaches for seeking out help when they are experiencing mental health concerns or other issues can also be extremely helpful. This help-seeking behavior could be talking to a parent, another trusted adult like a teacher or counselor or even a hotline like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Although it can be intimidating, it’s also vital to talk with your student about substance misuse, which can be easily connected to mental health conditions.
Maintaining a schooltime routine
Participating in extracurricular activities can be another good way to provide more connectedness and prevent poor mental health, but a busy schedule can also be a fast track to burnout. Sit down with your student and establish a regular routine for waking up, eating meals, going to extracurriculars, homework time and getting ready for bed. Sleep is extremely important for mental health, especially in teens and preteens, so setting up a consistent routine and sleep schedule can have a lot of benefits.
Extracurricular activities can also provide additional opportunities for connection, whether that is with their teammates, a coach or their parents in shared activities. One such shared activity could be our regular Rise Above It event, which offers space for adults and teens (over the age of 12) to talk about mental health and connect with potential sources of help. The goal of the event is to help families in our county learn to cope with life’s challenges and stress, and reach out when help is needed.If you’d like to know more about connecting to resources that can support your family’s mental wellness, contact the Healthy365 Connection Center today at 317-468-4231 or visit our offices at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield.