Mental health systems are “overworked,” say students, educators

This series aims to increase efforts to better support the well-being of students and school staff during this difficult return year.

During the pandemic, when classes were virtual and there was no separation between home and school, Brittyn Benjamin-Kelley felt that her life was “nowhere to be seen.”

“It was a process of getting to know myself in part because I had to figure out what I liked to do on my own,” said Benjamin-Kelley, a senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. “But it was still a tough trip to have to do on my own.”

Aurora, Colorado’s Edi Wold, described a similar feeling.

“It’s not fun to be alone with your thoughts, especially if they are negative,” he said.

On Wednesday, Chalkbeat and College Track, among nonprofits aimed at helping students get to and from college, were among several U.S. students who reflected on their experiences over the past two years.

Students shared well-known concerns, explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic was a time of isolation, loss of structure, and increased mental health burden. But it was also a time of personal growth, some said, a testament to the resilience demanded by young people during the pandemic.

Xitlali Curincita, a student at San Francisco Bay, set herself “small goals,” such as attending class once a day, and eventually created her own club that served as a space for students to talk. “I had a chance to actually make a statement and say‘ I turned my back on you ’,” he said.

When students were struggling, schools did not always have the resources to help them. Although schools across the country have added counselors, social workers, and teacher training, the shortage of staff that exceeds the capacity of educators to effectively support educators has met the shortage of staff and the needs of students, thanks in part to funding from COVID federal support.

The pandemic was followed by a worrying rise in suicide and depression rates among young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-24. stated Mitch Prinstein, scientific director of the American Psychological Association, who attended the event along with other mental health experts.

“I’m not sure why he didn’t get more attention before. But I’m sure I’d like to do that, “said Prinstein.

COVID also highlighted long-standing racial and age differences in access to mental health services, said Jessica Jackson of AAKOMA Project, a nonprofit focused on meeting the mental health needs of young people of color. And when families realize they need help, they often find community mental health systems that are flexible, affordable, affordable, or non-staff to serve children in crisis.

“When I worked in impatient units, my parents didn’t know that most of the time I had to go to a children’s hospital,” he said, to get intensive services. “If you go to your usual emergency room, everyone in the hospital unit, what do we do with this 15-year-old?”

Constantly finding mental health care is a particularly challenging challenge for families of color, he said. In addition to tackling higher COVID rates, they have been affected by racist violence in their communities.

“Apart from the health problem and mourning, I am still living, I don’t know how people feel as I identify with myself,” she explains. “And then you have to find a therapist who can really work with all of these things.”

It’s not that schools and outside teams don’t want to help, said Le’Yondo Dunn, principal of Philadelphia’s Simon Gratz Mastery High School in Philadelphia.

“What we’re seeing is that when we want to be able to get help from a young person, the system is overwhelmingly overworked,” Dunn said. Dunn’s school has six social workers, more than most schools. However, they feel overwhelmed.

“Our social workers are spending 80%, 90% of their days answering and testing,” he said. “What I would like our social workers to do is do some proactive work.”

Through a program called Rebound, her school offers additional therapy and mediation of violence to some students. Every student could use something like that, he said, “but he needs resources, and he also needs the right people.”

Students at the event – the final four episodes of the Chalkbeat series – had suggestions on how schools can help.

Curincita said the school would like to organize talks on vulnerability, providing space for vulnerability and talking about what the concept means.

“Zulnerability, for me, is very difficult to talk about,” he said. “But in most cases, I feel the need to be vulnerable to feeling fully heard and understood.”

Another one The students wanted the people not to always try to solve their problems, but to be the listener. Others suggested that schools add “mental health breaks” or rest time. Lisbeth Martinez of Jordan Senior High School in Los Angeles said she would like schools to also offer lessons in navigating conversations with adults about emotions.

Laura Clary of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Laura Clary shared research suggesting that these conversations may make a difference. A study of a Baltimore mental health program showed that students actively apply the skills of managing their emotions.

“It’s gratifying and disappointing at the same time,” he said. “It’s gratifying because we see that this can make a difference. But schools need resources to do that. ”

See the full interview here.

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