Mental health

Experts: Pandemic taking its toll on Minnesota students’ mental health – Pine Journal

Summary

Twelfth-grade student Emily Tucker, a lead in the play, said drama club has been a lifeline for her this semester.

“Honestly, it’s like an escape. Being here, even though it’s school, it’s still — this feels like a whole different part,” Tucker said. “It just feels like a home away from home at this point. I’m always here.”

Finding something she’s passionate about has been key …….

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Twelfth-grade student Emily Tucker, a lead in the play, said drama club has been a lifeline for her this semester.

“Honestly, it’s like an escape. Being here, even though it’s school, it’s still — this feels like a whole different part,” Tucker said. “It just feels like a home away from home at this point. I’m always here.”

Finding something she’s passionate about has been key for Tucker’s mental health and connection to school this semester, coming out of the pandemic.

“It’s a daily struggle. It’s really important to talk about — school is still a struggle. And it’s not because the work is hard. It’s just because [of] low motivation,” Tucker said. “Every time somebody asks me what I want to do after school, I just want to cry because I do not know yet. And it’s really, really, really a struggle. Being alone is good, but then I come here and I feel like I don’t want to be alone.”

Not every student has been able to find such a strong connection to their school following the last nearly two years of interrupted learning. The pandemic has taken a serious toll on student mental health. In October the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.

“There has been a significant increase in mental health crises since the pandemic started,” said Raghu Gandhi, a child psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He said isolation, stress, closed schools and academic struggles are all having an effect on the students he sees in his practice.

“We are seeing a lot of teenagers who are coming to our ERs with depression, assessment of suicide attempts, self-injurious behaviors such as cutting and a lot of substance abuse,” Gandhi said.

School leaders around the state say they’re seeing these same issues in their buildings.

“In August, when students came to school, we were so excited to have them in person that we didn’t recognize or realize some of these social skills that they maybe had lost or not developed,” said Andrea Rusk, principal at Brainerd High School.

In October she sent a letter to families in her district, pleading for help with student behaviors she and her staff had never seen before. In the first three weeks of classes alone, she said there were three physical altercations. And then there’s screen addiction, increased substance abuse, vandalism, academic disengagement and conflict at levels of intensity she’s never experienced.

Rusk said she’s also seeing political and social tensions trickle down into student behaviors. There have been fights on social media, and at some point, Brainerd students started wearing flags to classes: political flags, LGBTQ flags, law enforcement flags. …….

Source: https://www.pinejournal.com/news/education/7288034-Experts-Pandemic-taking-its-toll-on-Minnesota-students%E2%80%99-mental-health