Technology-based tools and resources can help education professionals serve students and target student mental health as they return to classrooms

4 steps to support student mental health as schools reopen


Technology-based tools and resources can help education professionals serve students and target student mental health as they return to classrooms

Here are four steps schools can take to support student mental health needs in the 2021-2022 school year.

Provide adequate in-school support

The simple act of congregating after a year of social isolation will be a significant stressor for many students. Having professionals on-site to support these students is paramount as they re-learn how to engage with their peers.

Schools should consider bringing on additional counselors and mental health professionals who can meet with students throughout the school day. The availability of mental health support should be communicated to parents, staff and students. Clear, supportive, and repeated communication around these services can actually help disarm any harmful beliefs or stigmas that may prevent students from seeking help.

Teachers must also be equipped with knowledge and resources so that they are fully aware of what their students may be experiencing as they return to school. Schools should send reminders via channels most likely to reach faculty about where they can send students who are struggling. Administrators can post information throughout the school that clearly explains what mental health support is available for students and keep websites and newsletters up to date with guidance.

Offer multiple reporting outlets

Schools should also provide dedicated channels and outlets for students to voice their concerns to faculty and mental health professionals. The full extent of student trauma and stress related to COVID-19 may not surface until children physically return to school. As a result, schools need to create several outlets for students to honestly share how they are feeling.

One approach is for schools to set up anonymous tip lines to give students a private and safe way to indicate that they need additional support. Administrators can even encourage other students to bring forth any concerns they have about their peers–an action that could literally save lives.

A key to success here is making the process of submitting confidential or anonymous tips easy.  One of the best ways to accomplish that is using an SMS-based anonymous tip solution.  By accounting for the lowest common denominator, we can allow for students, parents, and staff to all participate and share insight in a manner that is comfortable for them. 

Prepare for all types of emergencies

Furthermore, schools need to be adequately prepared to handle different types of emergencies. Acts of violence, acute mental health crises, and other medical emergencies can induce trauma and stress for students who are already in a fragile mental state.

By deploying panic buttons across a school or campus, faculty, staff, and administrators can use it in an emergency to get help as quickly and efficiently as possible. Schools should specifically consider a mobile or app-based panic button for easy access from anywhere an emergency may occur. Digitizing handbooks or other emergency planning documents and making them readily available via safety applications or websites can also play a huge role in ensuring everyone feels well-informed.

Mass communication systems will also continue to be useful for keeping staff and families in the loop on what is happening in school. Schools should employ a multi-modal approach for disseminating information in real time and reach out to people in an appropriate manner based on the situation at hand.

For instance, administrators can use emails or recorded phone messages to share general, non-emergency updates and reserve texts or push notifications for more urgent situations. End users resonate with different communication modes, which is why it’s crucial that a school’s mass notification system can deliver messages in multiple ways.

When crafting outbound communications, being consistent and informative can prevent people from becoming desensitized to urgent alerts.

Stay positive

Remember: although we’re in uncharted territory, we’re all in this together. We have the tools and technology to navigate through reopenings successfully. We have the capabilities to ensure students have the mental health support they need to reintegrate into schools and get back on track with their learning. Now it’s up to everyone in the community–students, educators, staff and families–to stay positive and care for one another as we go forward.

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