Back to School During COVID-19

Jul 30, 2020

Uncertainty about the upcoming school year is causing mental health challenges for many students, parents, teachers and staff. Will students be able to safely return to the classroom?

The possibility of remote learning at the grammar school, high school and college level is also causing stressors for students and families. How will families manage childcare and will virtual learning result in isolation and depression?

Educators and mental health providers remind us that we are not alone in feeling anxious or depressed as a new school approaches.

According to Melodie Baker, national policy director at Just Equations, and a member of New York’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council, educators are in a prepare and problem-solving mode.

“This is a strange time. We are at a place where anything can change at anytime and anything can happen,” Baker said. “Mental health is a significant issue and we need to better support students with mental health issues and disabilities.”

Baker notes that a statewide priority is investing time and energy to support parents and provide access to online professionals and mental health resources.

“By sharing our experiences, we can help each other,” Baker said.

“Encouraging children to be open and honest and offering a safe environment to share their concerns will help eliminate the stigma of mental illness.”

College students and their families are facing an additional layer of stress and uncertainly as they prepare for a move to campus.

According to a survey conducted by Active Minds in April of 2020, 20 percent of college students say their mental health has significantly worsened during COVID-19 and 48 percent have experienced financial setback due to the pandemic.

“In general, under normal circumstances, this is an exciting time full of challenges,” said Carissa Uschold-Klepfer, assistant director of outreach, suicide prevention coordinator and eating disorder coordinator at the University at Buffalo.

COVID is presenting new challenges when students may experience a hybrid of remote and in-person learning. Students are coming from home, establishing their independence and University at Buffalo staff are ready to assist them in adjusting to their new environment.

UB, as well as many other schools and universities, quickly adapted to a telehealth format to provide counseling when in-person appointments that were not possible. Resources are available on college campuses for short-term help and referrals.

According to Uschold-Klepfer, a student may initially seek assistance for a COVID-related issue, but then begin to explore deeper issues. Having a conversation and providing support is the best way to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Learn about mental health resources here

The University at Buffalo offers the following self-care tips for students at the website,

Stress is a normal reaction. Many times, you can’t avoid it. But you can often lower your stress levels just by taking better care of your body and mind.

Stress is a normal reaction. Many times, you can’t avoid it. But you can often lower your stress levels just by taking better care of your body and mind.

What You Can Do For Yourself

  • Structure your time
  • Have healthy snacks
  • Eat regularly
  • Limit your caffeine
  • Seek support from friends and family
  • Set realistic goals
  • Become active
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Unplug from electronic devices

What You Can Do For Someone Else

  • Listen to them
  • Don’t take their negative feelings personally
  • Offer assistance even if they haven’t asked
  • Give them space or privacy if needed
  • Reassure them that feeling stressed is not uncommon
University at Buffalo

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