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Back to School & Mental Health

Keeping kids & teens mentally healthy for the next school year

With most schools transitioning back to in-person learning full-time for the fall, it's important to address what the pandemic has shed light upon: mental health. As life attempts to regain a sense of normalcy, kids are heading back into the classroom. School is a huge part of a child's life, from friendships to grades, the school environment affects many aspects of mental health.

Here are 3 common school-related mental health concerns and how you can help kids cope:

black boy wearing backpack in science classroom
1. Loneliness in the Classroom

According to Mental Health America, nearly half of all Americans report feeling alone or left out, and over two-thirds of 11-17-year-olds experience stress over loneliness. There are a number of reasons your child may be feeling lonely in a school setting, including moving to a new district, problems at home, or bullying. A few signs of loneliness in younger children include playing with imaginary friends, seeking attention through misbehaving, or acting unsure of themselves. Signs of loneliness are more recognizable in adolescents and teens. They may stay in their rooms for long periods of time, appear sad and forlorn, not hang out with friends outside of school, or talk negatively about themselves.

In order to help your child, keep an open and honest dialogue about mental health and emotions to create a safe space for them to express their feelings. Encourage them to try recreational sports or join a club in school. You can also reach out to their teacher to discuss your worries or seek professional help from a therapist.

2. Stress & Anxiety at School

School and stress go hand in hand. It's natural to worry about an upcoming test or a homework assignment, but it's not healthy to overly obsess about school stress to the point that it interferes with mental wellbeing. A few simple ways to reduce overall stress is to get enough sleep, eat healthily, exercise daily, carve out time for leisure and relaxation, and developing beneficial coping skills. Check out our article for 7 tips to help calm kids nerves for the start of the school year.

According to Mental Health America's study, the top 5 things that cause stress in 11-17 year olds are getting good grades, preparing for the future, loneliness, body appearance, and juggling priorities. Placing too much pressure on your child to succeed academically can take a severe toll on their mental health. Practice patience and lead by example to model healthy behavior to handle stress.

back to school
3. Signs of Child & Adolescent Depression

3.1 million young people from ages 12 to 17 deal with periods of major depression, and 78% of 11-17 year olds who participated in MHA's depression screening test scored positive for moderate to severe depression. Signs of depression include:

  • a significant drop in grades
  • lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • anger
  • changes in eating and sleeping
  • poor self-esteem
  • suicidal thoughts

Early detection and intervention is critical to getting appropriate support for your child. Again, it's important to keep the dialogue going about mental illness and emphasize that there is no shame in reaching out for professional help.

There is no doubt we're experiencing back-to-school in a very different way pre-pandemic, but hopefully the emphasis on mental health can lead a positive change in breaking the stigma and raising awareness. If your child is concerned about returning to school, we've gathered tips to help ease the transition.

If your child is exhibiting any symptoms of mental health struggles as we head back to school, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.

Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 X9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

https://www.onoursleeves.org/mental-wellness-tools-guides/back-to-school

https://mhanational.org/previous-years-back-school-toolkit-materials