One of the things that stood out from the Illinois PTA-Advance Illinois Town Hall was the struggles families are facing around remote learning. Many parents reported that their children have not wanted to get on Zoom calls, turn on their video during class, or otherwise engage with their teacher and classmates. The sudden shift to online learning has been an ongoing struggle for schools and families, first with working to ensure all families could get learning materials, then with teachers learning how to effectively teach online, and now with efforts to keep students engaged. In doing the latter, teachers and parents are now seeing signs of children struggling with mental health issues.

The magazine Tech & Learning recently had a conversation with two school psychologists, one from just outside New York City and the other from Bozeman, Montana, about what teachers (and parents) need to be aware of about students’ mental health issues. In the video, the psychologists discuss what the shift to online learning has meant for students, teachers, families, and mental health issues.

Some key points from the video:

  • Access to online learning continues to be a continuing issue both in terms of equity and effectiveness. Teachers need additional professional development regarding online teaching.
  • Teachers are reporting more issues with student engagement as online classes continue, with students signing on but not enabling video or audio so teachers cannot know if they are actually engaging with the class.
  • School is often a safe haven for many students, providing them with critical meals, connection, and support. While schools have worked hard to continue to provide meals to students in need, providing connection and support has proved to be more challenging.
  • Families are struggling with mental health issues as well as students. The psychologists reported doing more family counseling than usual to help parents better support their students.

Several of these points are echoed by a recent National Public Radio interview with a middle school counselor in the Bay Area. She noted that students are often communicating through social media, Snapchat, and brief videos. The extended period of time in front of the camera during an online class “magnifies middle school life in a nutshell of just feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, trying to find your own voice and trying to find your identity.”

If you feel like your child may be struggling with mental health issues, the Mental Health America free toolkit has resources that can help. If you or someone you know is currently having a mental health crisis, Mental Health America has a crisis line available at 800-273-8255.

Photo courtesy of the US Army.