- School districts across the nation are trying multiple approaches to address stress and depression among students. For instance, the Auburn School District in Washington is using a $450,000 grant to screen middle school students for mental health issues using the screening, brief intervention and referral-to-treatment method. School leaders were noticing problems with students making the transition from elementary to secondary schools, District Administration reports.
- District leaders in the Regional School District No. 8 in Hebron, Connecticut, have opted for another approach by creating the Resilience Program to serve students in grades 7-12. This program combines on-campus clinical treatment with academic instruction in a way that allows students to transition back to general education classrooms as they gain the coping skills to do so.
- High-achieving middle and high school students also may need intervention because they tend to exhibit higher than average levels of anxiety, depression, cheating and substance use, according to Suniya Luthar of Authentic Connections, a nonprofit organization that focuses on this demographic. Concepts of “grit” and “growth mindset” can backfire with these students and educators may need a greater focus on building strong relationships to benefit them, the article says.
Educators have seen increased levels of stress and anxiety among students in recent years. Some estimates say that about one-third of teens have anxiety disorders and up to 8% are seriously affected. Elementary school students are also showing greater evidence of stress and anxiety. These factors can affect a student’s ability to focus in the classroom, show up in their academic performance and affect their classroom behavior.
A number of factors contribute to this increased level of anxiety, including stress in the home environment. Experts say social media also has also had an impact, especially for teens. In school, homework loads and academic pressure can add to the stress levels. And transitioning from one grade to another or from one school to another can also trigger stress in students, especially if they are not adequately prepared or if they are on the autism spectrum.
Many schools are trying to increase mental health supports, an area of focus that is drawing more attention as a school safety strategy. However, many schools have already stretched their mental health resources as far as they can go. Some schools are now working with local organizations to place mental health clinics in schools so that students have increased access to services without missing time in school for appointments.
Educating all students about mental health is another approach that can help them better understand their thought patterns and how to develop better coping skills to deal with stress. Educating teachers about signs of anxiety and stress and ways they can adapt their classroom environment to help students deal with these issues is also a valuable strategy. And informing parents of ways to help students deal with stress and transitions can help as well.