PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December - Page 22

The pandemic ’ s reach
It seemed likely that students would suffer from such a dramatic disruption in their school and social lives . It also affected the dynamics of their whole family and occurred in a troublesome , divisive political climate , which cropped up in pandemic policy and choices about the disease .
“ We were already seeing record high levels of depression and anxiety , so this developed in that atmosphere ,” Sharp said , pointing to a Pennsylvania Youth Survey ( PAYS ) showing that 38 % of students responding said they felt depressed or sad most days in the year prior to the survey in 2019 . “ This acute disruption in their lives comes even as we ’ re already facing significant concerns about student emotional health .”
State resources for student mental health
To help guide districts in efforts to support the mental health of students , the state Department of Education is developing a battery of resources that uses data to develop specific plans to address individual student needs and the school culture in regard to emotional support .
It offers a “ roadmap ” to serve as a “ resource bank for school leaders with the goal of helping teachers , support staff , families , and students emerge from these unprecedented times and start a new school year stronger than ever and focused on accelerating learning .”
The Accelerated Learning through an Integrated System of Support initiative helps them establish a strategic vision , needs assessment , planning , implementation , monitoring , and adjusting . It recommends that districts address four areas and offers guidance :
Focus on High-Quality Academics
Foster Supportive Learning Environments
Establish Healthy System Conditions
Design a System of Scaffolded Supports
In addition , the state has recently developed a decision tree that is designed to help educators choose how to use federal funds to “ improve learning environments through social and emotional learning and mental health supports .”
It is also recommending a platform that offers resources to support overall school mental health . The School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation ( SHAPE ) was developed by the National Center for School Mental Health .
Hirner notes that the research also showed at that time “ large numbers of our students reporting things like , ‘ I am no good at all ,’ ‘ Overall , I am a failure ,’ or ‘ I am sad or depressed most of the time ,’ and an alarming 54 % of those in grades 6-12 reported getting drunk or high .” She is concerned that with this as a starting point , the problem will only grow .
A national survey of 3,300 teenagers in June indicated that they are much more concerned than usual about their health , as well as the health and financial stability of their families , she says . One-quarter of them reported that they are losing sleep , feeling unhappy , and under constant strain and losing confidence in themselves .
In a survey from Education Week at the beginning of this year , students reported they were getting lower grades and procrastinating more because of anxiety , and felt tired and isolated , and were having trouble concentrating and remembering things . One expert noted students are suffering from an unfamiliar type of trauma because it is ongoing as opposed to one event .
Experts note the response to trauma varies widely – it can range from numbness to hyperactivity and have a variety of emotional and physical symptoms . It also can be misdiagnosed as other problems , even attention issues .
Experts note the response to trauma varies widely – it can range from numbness to hyperactivity and have a variety of emotional and physical symptoms .
A survey of schools nationwide by Reuters earlier this year found that a majority of schools reported significant emotional health concerns among students . About 75 % of the 74 districts reporting said they were seeing “ multiple indicators of increased mental health stresses ” among students .
20 PSBA Bulletin November / December 2021