Kids Mental Health

I want to share an article from Education Week about “Kids’ Mental Health Can Decline in the Summer.” It poses the question of what can schools do to help.

We have always discussed summer learning loss and what schools can do to help address this issue. Many schools have stepped up to address learning loss by providing summer schools, learning camps, and various opportunities. However, I know we still see in the news the adverse reports of how schools continue to fail.

In this article, the author states he is not blaming schools for mental health issues but points out that teachers and schools are the frontline workers who will notice the changes. They need to be the ones to identify and communicate with the families.

Trevino underscored the pivotal role that schools and educators play on the “front lines,” acting as vigilant observers of shifts in their students’ mental health. He stressed that schools are the primary support system for parents, who frequently turn to them for guidance regarding their child’s emotional state and overall mental wellness. Teachers, counselors, and administrators become trusted sources of advice, assisting parents in making decisions that serve their child’s best interests.

Trevino highlighted how stressors manifest more prominently within the school environment due to the array of tasks students are assigned. Educators, being attuned to their students’ functioning, are often the first to detect these changes, making their role in mental health support even more significant.

Both Trevino and Goldstein emphasized the paramount importance of sustained communication between educators and families as the linchpin for the successful prevention of regression. Goldstein emphasized early engagement with summer services, suggesting that families be connected to external counselors or enrichment camps early, especially when uncertainty prevails, or assistance is required to identify the most suitable options.

Goldstein further stressed the critical nature of consistently and promptly informing parents about their child’s needs. Without timely updates from educators on their child’s mental well-being at school, securing the appropriate services for children becomes a challenge. Goldstein urged that this communication commence early to ensure a seamless process, preventing families from facing unnecessary hurdles due to communication gaps.

A crucial aspect, as Goldstein noted, is ensuring that information flows efficiently to the grade-level teacher, minimizing redundancy and avoiding unnecessary challenges for the child or family. By ensuring that pertinent information is relayed on time, parents and school administrators can collectively steer the child’s educational journey toward success without needless obstructions arising from communication lapses.

“My Two Rules” stands as a staunch advocate for fostering collaboration among home, school, and community organizations, all converging to fortify the well-being of children and their families. In the present context, the significance of collaboration cannot be overemphasized. Have you ever embarked on the challenge of assembling a jigsaw puzzle only to discover crucial pieces missing? The futility of completing such a puzzle mirrors the predicament of our children. We must unite our efforts, channeling a collective determination to empower our children’s journey.

In light of this, I have conceived the S.O.S. (System of Support). This comprehensive framework harmoniously aligns with the strategies educators are currently employing to cater to the academic needs of our students through the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support). The System of Support stands as an additional compact, intricately woven between students, their homes, schools, and, if required, external agencies. Within this collaborative contract, each party contributes to enhancing areas of need.

Effectively, we are weaving the principles of MTSS with an augmentation encompassing mental health support and social-emotional well-being. This amalgamation equips us to address the holistic needs of our children, bolstering their growth and development through a harmonious convergence of stakeholders. Just as a well-constructed puzzle culminates in a captivating image, so does the combined effort of a dedicated community lead to the flourishing of our children, nurturing them to reach their fullest potential.

Now, I did not just create this model. I utilized this model when I was a principal several years ago. Two Rules is a philosophy I used as an educator in my classroom, as Assistant Principal, Principal, and Director of Educational Support Programs. This philosophy works at every level, in small and large unit districts, and only works when collaboration is working.

Teachers cannot be placed in a position to “recommend” any mental health services. Trained mental health practitioners are the individuals who can make those recommendations. However, we can detect changes in behavior. Parents can notice this as well. One of my former students explained communication to me in the best way, “Listen to what is not said.” Another family friend told me, “I was transmitting when I should have been receiving.” The takeaway is to Listen.

School is back in session for the 2023-2024 school year. I would like to see some of the data change for this school year. These are my priorities

  • Decline in the suicide rate for our youth ages 10-14 —————There were 13.9 suicide attempts per 10,000 girls aged 10–14 years in wave 2 (95% CI 11.9–15.8), a rate that significantly exceeded the prepandemic rate of 6.2 per 10,000 (95% CI 4.7–7.6). Among children between the ages of 15 and 19, suicide is the second leading cause of death, and the leading cause of death for 14- to 15-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Provide community resources within each school to support mental health needs-Nearly 20% of children and young people ages 3-17 in the United States have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder, and suicidal behaviors among high school students increased more than 40% in the decade before 2019. Mental health crises are also on the rise. From March 2020 to October 2020, mental health–related emergency department visits increased 24% for children ages 5 to 11 and 31% for those ages 12 to 17 compared with 2019 emergency department visits, according to CDC data (Leeb, R. T., et al., Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 69, No. 45, 2020).
  • Support Mental Health Training for Schools and Staff. This article from American Psychological Association provides information on the efforts to help provide training and support to schools. The American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March 2021, included $170 billion for school funding, and many schools used the budget to hire mental health workers, including psychologists. Other federal and state funding is being allocated toward training more psychologists. However, there is a shortage in Mental Health professionals. Small Unit districts in rural communities are still in need. Data shows the amount of funding being spent in areas, but I would like to see if the data reflects the changes we need with the amount of money being spent. Could the money be spent differently to allocate change for all?
  • Implementation of Two Rules. I aim to provide as much help, resources, and free materials to schools as they work to give the students what they need—creating an S.O.S. and working in a collaborative environment of student, home, school, and community to ensure the sustainability of the solutions. I would like the schools to look at all of their current data and record it. Then begin to implement the Two Rules Philosophy. We can then take a look at data in three-week increments. Changes happen when we change. Implementation with integrity and complete buy-in is needed for the collaboration to work.

Children need to feel good and feel safe. I think about how many adults I hear saying they are not feeling safe. Children hear, see and think about everything around them. Society is a reflection of what we allow it to be. Be the solution daily in a world that needs you to lift up just what you can. Together we can! #Two Rules

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