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Mental health in schools remain priority | News, Sports, Jobs

The Associated Press report “Mental health worries schools,” published in the Mirror’s Aug. 20-21 edition, merited categorization as a must-read for anyone having a child or children enrolled in elementary or secondary education.

Whether or not a parent agrees or disagrees with the premise that schools should be delving into students’ mental health, parents need to be cognizant of opinions and concerns on both sides of the issue and be open-minded about the fact that there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate.

This is a tough issue, one not likely to go away anytime soon.

Circumstances and challenges exist at this time that never were envisioned during most current school parents’ lifetimes, and it is difficult for many parents now to come to grips with them, “thanks” in part to the volatile political atmosphere that has not spared education and student learning.

Parents should be tuned in to the emotional needs and concerns of their children; they know their children better than anyone else.

At the same time, parents must acknowledge the possibility the children they know at home could differ substantially from how those children function outside the home.

There is the lingering fallout from the pandemic, and schoolchildren of today must cope with fears, anxieties and uncertainties spawned by the knowledge of violence inflicted within or around schools at various locales across the United States.

Regardless of parents’ political beliefs, affiliations or other personal beliefs, they need to recognize that within what should be happy, exciting — albeit educationally challenging — times, many children are experiencing feelings that need to be heard and addressed in the school environment because they are reluctant to discuss those feelings at home.

It is not belittling for parents to accept a realization that they do not have all of the answers regarding their children’s anxieties and fears, just as schools must admit that they too have limitations regarding the help some children require.

However, parents working together with schools, rather than tearing them apart via verbal assaults and accusations, increase the chances for success in meeting at least some, if not most, of their children’s needs.

The AP article noted that student mental health reached crisis levels last year, stemming from the harmful effects of isolation during the pandemic, extending back to 2020 — a time of remote learning.

But the pandemic’s harmful effects remain planted within school systems; the challenge for school districts is to figure out solutions, based on their circumstances.

“The pressure on schools to figure out solutions has never been greater,” the AP article says. “Districts across the country are using federal pandemic money to hire more mental health specialists, rolling out new coping tools and expanding curriculum that prioritizes emotional health,” but all of that might not be enough, if many school systems continue having difficulty hiring enough counselors.

“The pandemic magnified the fragility of mental health among American youth, who had been experiencing a rise in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for years,” the article pointed out. Under the article’s headline was the message “Crisis among nation’s youth falling to districts to address.”

Undoubtedly, the level of success also will depend on a positive partnership between districts and students’ homes.

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