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Mental Health Among Students, Teachers and Staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken many people's lives. Students are experiencing worry, sadness, and anxiety related to the many unknowns surrounding the disease and the societal precautions being taken to contain it. Students from minority and marginalized communities already experience higher rates of anxiety and depression, while also having limited access to behavioral healthcare. Parents or guardians may have lost jobs, businesses, or other income. The pandemic is exacerbating the needs of families.

Providing mental health services to students, teachers, and school staff during this crisis is crucial. Telemental health services or virtual well-being sessions are effective ways to make mental health and behavioral interventions accessible and safe. Mental health staff should receive training focusing specifically on telehealth, virtual counseling, and pandemic- and trauma-specific stress counselling. Training is necessary to provide the needed education, confidence, skills required amongst mental health providers. Virtual communication is an accessible, valid, and responsive venue for student support. However, in-person arrangements should be made in case of a psychological emergency.

Schools should set up meditation, mindfulness sessions, mental health workshops and therapeutic group discussions for students and employees with different needs. Cooperative care that addresses the needs of both students and their supports (teachers, family) will be critical. Self-care education can also be integrated into daily teaching activities. Teachers and schools should promote "physical distancing, NOT social distancing" messaging. Teachers can encourage students to replace high-fives and hugs with "virtual-hugs" or "flying-hearts". Teachers must watch out for signs of depression, anxiety, or burn out, and bridge students to necessary supports. The socialization, even limited, from school attendance may actually help avoid mental health problems for some youth and may also enable parents and guardians the opportunity to make a living. Offering mental health support will be crucial to the well-being of students and teachers as they seek a return to school and a new normal. also having limited access to behavioral healthcare.