WESTERN MARYLAND (WDVM) — While many are looking at this upcoming school year as a return to normal with kids going back to school in person, some educators have said the return will be anything but normal, and extra attention needs to be paid to the mental health of students. Studies that have come out since the pandemic point to increased levels of stress and suicidal thoughts among Americans, and overall decreased mental health.
Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) — a long-time advocate for mental health services — brought together a group of leaders in education on Wednesday to discuss their plans for the return.
“It’s a very complex issue that we’re dealing with, but one that we can’t ignore. Mental health is a crisis in this country,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association.
One student leader said Montgomery County is in talks about putting more mentors in school halls in place of resource officers, as students need people to help them process the past year spent indoors.
“People who are trained to deliver therapeutic services and licensed in mental health, but also people who are trained to deliver restorative justice and create that culture within schools,” said Kyson Taylor, co-chair of the Student Well-being Action Group.
Taylor also emphasized the need for empathetic listeners for people of color who may have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
The conversation didn’t end with students — the group also spoke about how the pandemic has harmed teachers, many of whom are more dissatisfied with their jobs than ever, and some of whom have turned towards substances to cope.
“I think that’s one thing from a policy perspective we can be considering is just not expecting that the first thing we’re gonna do is jump back in and immediately start testing, testing, testing and trying to get right onto page one of the curriculum,” said Anna Maier, research analyst and policy advisor for the Learning Policy Institute.
Rep. Trone recently introduced legislation to fund mental health programs in primary and secondary schools.