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SchoolWatch: The Mental Health of Our Students


Summer’s here!  Usually this news would be greeted with jubilant shouts of celebration.  But with new cases of COVID-19 continuing to surge locally, parents and teachers here in Irvine are trying to figure out how students will spend the summer and have some fun.  The traditional summer activities are not available this year.

The idea that children are resilient has become a cliche, but educators, mental health professionals, social workers, school nurses and parents recognize that kids are complex.  They may have been exposed to ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and may harbor other experiences that impact their mental health.  Moreover, children are often reluctant to share their concerns with adults.  As an experienced educator, I know that it is difficult for academic learning to take place when social-emotional learning has been neglected.

When our educational system and stakeholders fail to fully assess and treat the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 virus, it can lead to adverse immediate, intermediate, long-term and even life-changing consequences for the individual, the community and the very fabric of society.

As we learn more about the impact of the pandemic, we find that there are so many questions for which we do not currently have answers.  For example, what has been the emotional impact on children having their schools suddenly closed and being told they must socially isolate from their friends?  How are students coping with the loss of emotional support they were receiving from school teachers, counselors, nurses and coaches?  How do students feel about a computer screen taking the place of human interaction during classes?

Prior to COVID-19, the California Teacher Association analysts found that 70% of students with mental health disorders were not receiving adequate treatment.  The local school districts in California were aware of these findings, and have intensified their efforts to provide critical resources to parents.

Tustin Unified School District (TUSD) offers a link on its Distance Learning webpage, giving parents ideas on how they can support social-emotional learning at home.  Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) implemented a campaign in 2018 called, “Speak up! We Care!”  with a webpage offering resources to students and families who are “stuck” feeling angry, scared, anxious or frustrated.  (Both IUSD and TUSD update their webpages with new information regularly.)

In addition, the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) has launched a new webpage filled with mental health support services to help adults and children cope with fear, anxiety, and stress during the pandemic.  The webpage contains contact information for a crisis assessment team, counseling resources, and access to an information and referral line.

COVID-19 has succeeded in creating widespread anxiety among children and their families.  Adults must be be alert and aware of any manifestations of stress, anxiety and fear that require attention.  Our children’s trauma won’t just disappear because summer is here. 

Below is a checklist that parents can use to help assess your children’s emotional state.  These indicators can be used throughout the summer to monitor changes in their emotional well-being.

This summer, our job is to be vigilant and proactive if our children manifest any of the invisible social and emotional consequences brought about by this insidious virus.

Parents should also be asking if school staff will be equipped to tackle the impending mental health crisis likely to become apparent when schools reopen.

Irvine Community News & Views will continue to use this space to discuss questions and concerns from within the community, and to help connect our readers with useful resources to help answer additional questions you may have.

Resource Links
For a list of support services from IUSD, click here.

For information on the TUSD distance learning program, click here.

To access the Orange County Health Care Agency Mental Health Resources, click here.

For information on Orange County Health Care Agency Prevention & Intervention Services, click here.

To access mental health services through Hoag, click here.

For the American Academy of Pediatrics Parent Page on Adolescent Depression, click here.



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