To create safe mental health environments, we should consider:
1. Preparing for a “new normal” to address different emotional, social, and mental health needs. Change will not happen overnight. Have patience and set realistic expectations for students to build back social skills and the capacity to focus. Build-in time to assess and address readiness and support needs.
2. Training others to notice and respond to mental health needs in functional and supportive ways. All faculty, staff, parents, and caring adults should be educated to recognize signs of struggle, know how to reach out to offer support, and be knowledgeable about where to refer students for professional help when needed. You can find resources here.
3. Taking care of your own mental health. Making time and space for your own needs is an important part of meeting the needs of youth. And when they see you prioritizing and modeling self-care, they’ll learn to do the same.
4. Finding ways to implement innovative solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. Finding ways to incorporate new or adaptable tools into the classroom is key from a district level.
The emotional and mental toll from these past few months will never fully “go away,” but with consistent and informed support, we can make a difference in the lives of our nation’s children and prepare them for a brighter future, both physically and mentally.
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