Supporting the Mental Health of Students and Staff Through the Pandemic and Beyond
From the Director
The understanding of students’ social, emotional, and mental health development is at the core of creating and promoting safe and supportive learning environments. These skills and supports are essential to laying the groundwork for students to feel accepted and supported and ultimately ready to learn and reach their full potential. We must recognize that our schools are extensions of our communities, and their role in these areas is an integral piece in supporting the full developmental needs of our students.
Although this is a universal principle, the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced the need for schools to intentionally focus on these areas. The pandemic and social isolation have led to significantly great numbers of mental health concerns in both new cases and the severity of existing ones. Our students have also lost significant time and opportunities from their social development. We have yet to fully realize the full impact of this as students begin to return to full in-person instruction. We also cannot minimize the impact of the pandemic on school staff through both their own experiences as secondary trauma, as a result of school staff consistently sharing in student and families’ experiences. With this in mind, it is of the utmost importance for us to refocus our efforts to intentionally address the social-emotional, and mental health needs of our students and staff as we move forward.
This newsletter has been done in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). It focuses on the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our school communities, related to social, emotional, and mental health, and how education leaders can proactively respond. NASP represents and supports the profession of school psychology by advancing effective practices to improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health and maintaining essential standards for ethics and practice. It released a research report, “Child and Adolescent Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (NASP Report) and has committed extensive efforts to support school staff in meeting these needs.
As we begin to look forward to the 2021-22 school year, we must fully recognize the impacts that this past year has had on our school communities. We must take steps to focus our resources and efforts to understand where they are and to then meet them with needed tools and resources. We hope the articles and resources in this issue reemphasis the importance of these priorities and provide the foundational understanding to help drive conversations and planning in your communities. Please reach out with questions or comments using the online discussion group to engage other subscribers from around the country or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued interest and commitment fostering safe schools for all our students and district employees.
Director, NSBA Center for Safe Schools