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5 things we learned about student mental health in 2022

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As variants of COVID-19 continued to spread in 2022, pandemic-related school closures have all but disappeared and most districts have rolled back mitigation rules like social distancing.
But as external disruptions to schooling abate, educators face a new epidemic of mental health issues among children and adolescents. Researchers are just beginning to understand the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on students’ minds and brains.

Among the discoveries this year:

1. We’re back to school, but not back to normal.

About 1 in 4 children and adolescents in 11 countries, including the United States, felt a strong “distress” during the pandemic. Depression and anxiety were found to be the most common mental health problems, but behavioral and attention problems also increased, especially in young children.

The massive pandemic disruptions may have even happened the prematurely aging adolescent brain According to a long-term neurological study, at age three or four in its first months, severe trauma can alter children’s brain development in the same way.

2. The coronavirus itself puts children at greater risk.

Pandemic-related social isolation, economic instability and family stress have all contributed to student stress, but contracting COVID-19 alone nearly triples the risk of new mental health problems for children, according to a researcher. US Department of Health and Human Resources study. Services.

Of more than 3.3 million children under the age of 17 nationwide, researchers found that more than a third of children who tested positive for COVID-19 were diagnosed with a new mental health disorder in the 30 days. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, and trauma or stress disorders were the most common diagnoses.

3. Educators see screen time worsening behavior and learning issues

The non-profit organization Common Sense Media, which tracks children’s screen and technology use, reports that daily screen time has increased since the pandemic. Tweens ages 8 to 12 now use digital devices more than five and a half hours a day, and teens now spend almost eight hours and 40 minutes a day on screens, not including school technology.

In a survey last spring, more than 80% of educators told the EdWeek research center that they had seen higher doses of screen time translate into more behavioral problems and learning difficulties in the classroom. for their students.

In my opinion/experience, when screen time increases, student behavior:

A separate study published this month also finds that hours spent playing video games and watching algorithm-based video playlists, such as on YouTube, increase the risk of developing obsessive-compulsive disorder in tweens. .

4. Alleviating student mental health issues can reduce absenteeism

Almost half of the schools have seen Worsening student absenteeism over the past yearand 70% of schools have not returned to pre-pandemic attendance.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may account for some chronic absenteeism, particularly among students with disabilities. Some districts are exploring wellness centers, day schools and other interventions to ease student anxiety and get children back into the classroom.

5. Schools must prevent and respond to student suicide, even in elementary school

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. The risk is even higher for colored children.

Florida Child Advocates found a record number of children detained for involuntary mental health assessments, specifically for self-harm.

Researchers say depression and suicidal ideation may be different in younger students than in teenagers, and less than a third of children who commit suicide have ever received a mental health diagnosis. This prompted some districts to introduce mental health screening and suicide prevention programs in the early years.