As schools prepare for the new school year, there is a mental health crisis in youth across the country. A report by the Cambridge University Press Public Health Emergency Collection found that adolescents experienced increased rates of depression, anxiety and panic disorders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic is having multifarious adverse effects on the mental health of youth,” the report noted.
Disruptions to education, social interaction and activities such as sports and clubs that are shown to have a positive effect on mental health, have contributed to this increase in mental health issues. The spike in mental health crises among youth is a nationwide trend that’s been brewing long before the pandemic and one that will have lasting effects. Across the country, there is a dearth of resources for much-needed adolescent mental health care, and the pandemic has only made things worse.
Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French said state school districts have not been required to create plans related to social-emotional health this school year, though the Agency of Education is interested in compiling data about the issue.
While Harwood Union High School co-principal Meg McDonough said she’s not sure that Harwood has seen increased mental health needs, “There seems to be an acceptance or decreased stigma during and following the COVID year that has surfaced. That is, a general feeling that it is OK to seek support, it is OK to not be OK, and to talk about it and ask for help.”
She said resources and strategies available to Harwood students, “Include (but are not limited to) differentiated instruction, flexible pathways, access to the wellness center, movement breaks and brain breaks, flex block and guided instruction to support academic needs at all developmental levels, executive functioning; and social emotional support through student support specialists, school counselors, a substance abuse professional, school psychologist and contracted clinicians who provide therapeutic services. We are also constantly working to enhance our connections with community partners to collaborate with them and provide options for out-of-school support. The goal is to help our students feel seen, heard, safe and respected, and to best ensure our students can access the help they need when they need it.”
On Wednesday, August 18, after trying to reach HUUSD Superintendent Brigid Nease (and other central office staff as well as school administrators and counselors) via phone messages and emails since August 18, The Valley Reporter learned that Harwood’s administrative team was meeting August 18-19 to discuss the plan to support students’ social-emotional health in the new school year.