Updated: Mar 17, 2022
Its been a long, bumpy, frustrating 2 years of the Covid-19 pandemic. People are fed up and worn out. Anxiety and depression are skyrocketing across the United States and across the globe.
Among both genders, the prevalence of anxiety disorder went up 25.6 percent worldwide during the pandemic. For depressive disorder, the prevalence increased by 27.6 percent.
Its no surprise, since schools are a microcosm of surrounding communities, that youth mental health issues are also on the rise. These feelings are foreign to most youngsters and the result has been a parallel increase in violent outbursts and behavior.
Doctors are seeing the anxiety that set in during the lockdown causing secondary behaviors and symptoms that are even more concerning: aggression, violence and bullying. The Washington Post reported that the number of gun-related incidents in schools during the first three months of the 2021-22 school year are more than triple the amount during the same time period in 2019.
The U.S. Surgeon General has even recently issued an advisory on the youth mental health crisis being exasperated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating.
So what can we do to stop this disturbing trend? The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health outlines a series of recommendations to improve youth mental health across eleven sectors. Some recommendations include:
Recognize that mental health is an essential part of overall health.
Empower youth and their families to recognize, manage, and learn from difficult emotions.
Ensure that every child has access to high-quality mental health care.
Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings.
Increase timely data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs more rapidly. This includes more research on the relationship between technology and youth mental health.
Taking a Proactive Approach
Proactive school safety methods involve strategies associated with identifying real threats and taking planned actions to prevent targeted acts of violence from occurring in a school setting. Addressing mental health behavior and triggers are a part of these proactive strategies that the NASCPC can help schools to accomplish.
According to the United States Secret Service:
Incidents of targeted violence at school rarely were sudden or impulsive acts.
The attacker’s ideas or plans were known by others.
Most attackers did not threaten their targets ahead of time.
Most attacker’s pre-incident behavior caused concern.
Most attackers had no prior history of violent or criminal behavior.
There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engaged in targeted school violence.
By addressing the ecosystem to include youth mental health considerations, a school district can work to prevent acts of violence and also contribute to the healing that our children deserve. Addressing youth mental health is not only about having counselors available. It also involves the ecosystem of resources beyond that.
The NASCPC helps districts to not only identify what resources are needed in a school, but more importantly, we help to identify ways that districts can utilize those resources that already exist to help in more robust and meaningful ways.
Do students have at least one trusted adult at their school that they feel comfortable talking openly with?
Are staff educated on recognizing warning signs of potentially troubling communications?
Are there specific steps that are to be taken when troubling communication or behavior is identified?
Are students approached with empathy and understanding?
As educators and school safety professionals, we have an opportunity to make a difference and to guide students down alternate and positive paths. We can develop strategies to refocus learning and offer alternate ways for young people to manage stress. Even the simple act of changing up routines with more engaging activities can make a difference. Get outside with students more. Encourage more team activities. Acknowledge challenges and model how to shift to healthy activities to divert negative feelings into positive experiences. Show kids that its normal to feel stress and anxiety when things become foreign or when things feel out of our control. Help them to understand that no challenge is too big if we come together as a community. We must never let the burnout of Covid-19 undermine the potential our children possess. While children and teens are resilient, we must also never underestimate the impact of so much change in such a short time.
This is our opportunity to show our younger generations that life can be tough, but we can be tougher.
Here at the NASCPC, we are passionate about keeping our schools safe and secure. We understand that this is, and always has been, dependent on a holistic support system. No matter the challenges the world presents, if we plan and implement safe havens of support for our kids, there is nothing they cannot overcome. If you are interested in speaking with us about how we can help your district or school, please reach out to us for a free consultation today.