The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to students, educators, and parents. Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes, and now we are learning about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.
Mental Health Impacts on Students
Study: Mental Health effects of School Closures During COVID-19 (Lancet)
“For some children with depression, there will be considerable difficulties adjusting back to normal life when school resumes….” Read more.
Poll: Parents Say COVID-19 Harming Child’s Mental Health (Gallup)
“Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is ‘already experiencing harm’ to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. Another 14% indicate their children are approaching their limits, saying they could continue social distancing a few more weeks until their mental health suffers.” Read more.
Survey: The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Mental Health (Active Minds)
“20% of college students say their mental health has worsened…” Read more.
Article: “In a World ‘So Upside Down,’ the Virus Is Taking a Toll on Young People’s Mental Health” (New York Times)
“The shuttering of the American education system severed students from more than just classrooms, friends and extracurricular activities. It has also cut off an estimated 55 million children and teenagers from school staff members whose open doors and compassionate advice helped them build self-esteem, navigate the pressures of adolescence and cope with trauma….mental health experts worry about the psychological toll on a younger generation that was already experiencing soaring rates of depression, anxiety and suicide before the pandemic….” Read more.
Article: “COVID-19 Has Worsened the Student Mental-Health Crisis. Can Resilience Training Fix It?” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
“In some ways, the COVID-19 era seems like exactly the right time to educate students on how to manage the intense sadness, isolation, and anxiety they are feeling. But during the horrible natural experiment called coronavirus, is that the right message to send to students — to push through hardship, bounce back from failure, and come out stronger? Or should it be about empathy, compassion, and getting through this time in one piece?….” Read more.
Article: “The Growing Mental Health Effects of COVID-19 for Young Adults” (Health Central)
“As a parent, follow your gut… If you feel like something might not be right, it’s better to talk with them or find someone for them to talk to before it might spiral into something more serious.” Read more.
Support for Students and Families
Taking steps to support students is essential during this challenging time, whether they’re learning remotely, in classrooms or on college campuses. For us, that means more than simply making sure they learn from lesson plans and score well on standardized tests. We are as concerned about the social, emotional, and mental health needs of students in our community. Here are resources to help parents and students.
Numbers to Call or Text
The California Parent and Youth Helpline: 1-877-427-2736
Teen and Youth Hotline: 800-TLC-TEEN (800-852-8336)
Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990 (TTY 800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for 24/7 support
Crisis Text Line: Text NAMI to 741741 for 24/7 crisis support
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
California Warm Peer Line: 855-845-7415 for 24/7 for non-emergency support to talk to a peer counselor with lived experience
Webinars and Podcasts with Useful Advice and Information
How To Support Our Kids During COVID-19, with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris (Good Kids Podcast)
Supporting Distance Learning (Parents and Caregivers for Wellness webinar)
“Bluesky: Building a Healthier California Through Youth Resilience in a COVID-19 World” (Commonwealth Club panel Discussion, featuring NAMI California CEO, Jessica Cruz)
Stress Relief for Caregivers and Kids during COVID-19 (California Surgeon General)
Mental Health Resources for Students (California Department of Education)
“How to Help Students Cope and Deal with Stress” (California Department of Mental Health)
“School’s Out Parents’ Guide to Meeting the Challenge During the COVI19 Pandemic” (NYU Langone Health)
“An Educator’s Tips for Online Learning” (LA Times)
How to effectively manage your child’s back-to-school fears (Washington Times Herald)
Helping Children Cope (CDC)
Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19 (National Association of School Psychologists)
Advice from Community Leaders for Families
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, First Partner of California
“As the First Partner of California, I continue to be blown away by the resilience of Californians and, as a mom, I try to remind my kids of their own resilience — that we are strong and adaptable — and that this too shall pass. On a more practical level, all of us are stuck indoors and on screens more than we’d like to be, and I’m finding I need to pay close attention to the way tech and media use are impacting our family. While we are loosening some rules around tech use, there are some you want to stick to: Take tech breaks to move your body and clear your mind. Get as much outdoor play time and exercise as possible. No screens at least an hour — or two! — before bedtime; screen light really messes with your quality of sleep, and that can have a big impact on mood and mental wellbeing. And while the internet can be a great way to stay connected right now, it is full of content and misinformation that increases worry for kids. It’s important to create tech-free time reserved for being present as a family, and talking about what’s really going on in the world, at school, and at home.”
Jessica Cruz, NAMI California CEO
“It is so important for us to take care of ourselves. I know how easy it is for parents to forget to take care of themselves. We must practice self-care and make sure to identify the triggers that may come up as stress heightens. When the summer came to an end, I felt the pressure of a new at-home school schedule. For me, the first few weeks of school were rough. My husband, who is a physical education teacher, has taken over our front room to keep students active via Zoom. My 3rd grader and 6th grader are learning to manage their own time while I work from the office. Our house is a bit chaotic, which is a trigger for me (I need organization in my life to feel balanced). I found myself feeling irritable, lacking focus and having a hard time sleeping. I finally took a step back and implemented some of my self-care techniques. which include nighttime meditation, regular exercise, and being kind and patient with myself. Implementing self-care looks different for everyone. We talk openly and honestly in our household and don’t hold back about what we need at the moment. Open and honest communication, normalizing our feelings and learning to reach out to resources/providers when troubles fall outside of our ability to help each other are keys to my family’s success. Something that we do as a family, which has also helped in my professional career, is to identify 3-5 items each day that I will complete to feel accomplished. Some days it starts with making the bed or finishing a load of laundry; other days the projects may be larger. My kids implement this as well. We think about the things they need to accomplish and we review and celebrate the small accomplishments while saying good night.”
Tim Davis, NAMI Westside Los Angeles Program Director
“I spend my days encouraging anyone and everyone impacted by mental health conditions to talk about it, to find strength in admitting their vulnerabilities, and give others in their tribe permission to do the same. As the father of someone with bipolar disorder who watched his son struggle mightily during the pandemic to maintain the incredible progress he’d made up until March, my advice is more pointed: ease up on your expectations — for your kids AND yourself. Lowering expectations isn’t always easy, especially in a society that places such a premium on always reaching for the stars. But when you stop (or at least hit pause) on reaching for those stars, you’ll discover that low-hanging fruit can taste pretty sweet, and take a lot of pressure off you and your child. Sure, maybe everyone will get a little less done, but they’ll have a lot greater peace of mind. That’s a trade I’ll take any day.”
Jei Africa, NAMI California Board Member and Marin County’s Director of Behavioral Health and Recovery Services