Educators not only in New Hampshire but across the country are observing a steady decline in the mental health of their students. School officials in Sullivan County found that the lasting emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to this decline.
“It’s an interesting place for our country, our state and our community. We’re paving our way out of a pandemic that no one has followed,” said Russell Holden, superintendent of the Snape School District. is the Abbott Library. “Now that it’s over, my teacher tells me, ‘I don’t understand what’s wrong. We teach our kids. I’m showing an expression,” he says. They hear what we are saying, but it is muffled and does not enter. We got them out of the water and put them in chairs, but now they have to learn how to breathe. This conversation was held to determine how school staff can work with communities for preventive care regarding declining mental health.
Mental health experts suggest that developmental delays associated with this pandemic have delayed students’ emotional and behavioral maturity for years. Due to lack of socialization and the inherent trauma resulting from the pandemic experience, teachers find it difficult to connect with students who are operating at social behavior levels below grade level. and an increase in suicidal ideation.
Adolescent risk assessments administered by the Snappy School District found that students’ feelings of hopelessness rose 10% in the past two years, and suicidal ideation reached about 9%. There was a 3% increase in the number of students on risk assessment who said they had considered planning to harm themselves.
Unfortunately, these findings are in line with national trends, as the CDC reported its findings on mental health crises over the past decade. Trends in risk assessment for young people from 2009 to 2019 show a slow increasing trend for both hopelessness and suicidal ideation. Information gathered on the ground indicates that the pandemic has exacerbated these figures.
There are several other very important aspects when considering a student’s emotional well-being that contribute to their ability to receive a competent education. Problems associated with family units becoming unaccommodated and needing financial assistance often lead to students not eating, not sleeping and having high levels of stress.
While more financially sound communities such as Snappy, where the median household income is $99,941, offer many programs for at-risk youth and families, other local school districts such as Claremont So most of the time there is only one staff member.
Courtney Porter has acted as their social worker to work to satisfy the students’ Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
“We know that children struggle to learn if other very important needs are not met. Do you work and understand what’s going on with the math?” Porter told the Eagle Times earlier this year.
In response to increasing mental health problems and what school administrators see as students getting in trouble, Claremont has adopted a restorative justice approach to rethink outdated punishment methods. Cumulative data from the school district shows that Claremont students are missing 211 days less school, and the method seems to be working.
“We want our students to come together in like-minded groups to create a true sense of community. And, if necessary, I will meet with the offended party to discuss it in a way that both feel heard and their safety needs are met.” , Claremont principal Christopher Pratt said of the form of restorative justice the school has adopted.
Another major area of focus for all schools in the region trying to address this issue is relationship building between students and faculty. According to school administrators across the district, the most fundamentally important thing you can do to help your students is build important relationships with educators so they feel comfortable communicating their concerns to adults. is to
“It’s not about money or programs, it’s about talking to students and building relationships. You can’t do that with high teacher turnover, because when they’re gone, you’re back at square one,” says Pratt. said, referring to high teacher turnover rates in some schools in the area.
School districts like Newport and Claremont have faced this problem for years and have since been dubbed “training grounds” for young teachers who go to wealthier districts for higher salaries. .
“Sometimes it’s a tough decision for these young teachers, when just one town pays us $5,000 to $6,000 more a year. It’s understandable because we have to.” Newport Superintendent Donna Magoon said of teacher departures: “But we are trying to change that perception. We have hired a lot of really good staff. New teachers are coming on board quickly and building relationships with the kids and that’s a big thing and one of the other things is a lot of the teachers live here in Newport and invest in the community That’s it.”
Claremont is also looking to address this issue, and is seeking to close $1 million teacher contracts in its upcoming budget to make salaries more competitive with other schools in the area.
Despite the socioeconomic differences of the schools, the intentions are always consistent and the health of the students is always a primary concern. Some schools have implemented software that alerts school administrators if students are searching for keywords related to suicide or self-harm, alerting relevant crisis teams of these issues. Other schools are awaiting federal funding to take a more individualized approach to the needs of each student, so they are taking a broader net approach at school-wide gatherings.
Regardless of how each school district determines its approach to mental health issues, addressing these issues remains the most important decision a school district can make.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 988 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.