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  • Samira Sine

Most experts say mental health will be a top priority for returning students for Fall 2021

Schools have a packed academic agenda as the new school year kicks off. But this year may be a little different. Studies conducted across the country and internationally have found that supporting a student's mental and emotional health in school is more important than ever.

There are many ways to help students in this particularly anxious time.

  1. Adding more social workers and school counselors is one way to help address the mental health needs of students, especially those who have experienced prolonged isolation and anxiety.

  2. Adding more movement and mindfulness, and short breaks during the day is becoming more important than ever. Breaks help alleviate anxiety and teachers can use a variety of organizations who can provide ways to create constructive breaks for kids. We have lots of resources to help children re-focus, breathe and relax. Even humor and fun games can break the monotony and the race to the "A," as we ease kids back into a more formal academic life.

  3. Some districts are changing school culture, including adding mental health as an excused absence. One such is Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland's largest school district, starting in the fall. The school district, which has nearly 17,000 students, is tapping into federal relief money earmarked for K-12 public schools to pay for the new positions.\

  4. While the real effect of the pandemic on school age children will take more time to understand, at Just For The Children we advocate for more programs that focus on movement, breathing, pro-social school environments, where students are given more time to ease into school life, rather than deep-dive straight into rigorous academic programs. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, director of policy and advocacy for the National Association of School Psychologists and a school psychologist, told ABC News. Emergency department visits for attempted suicide or suicide ideation is an area of concern, she said.

  5. In 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits among those aged 12 to 17 increased 31% compared to 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visits for suspected suicide attempts in girls that age from Feb. 21 to March 20, 2021, were 50.6% higher than the same period in 2019, the agency reported.

This is Part 1 of our "Back- to- school" series. Many more tips and advice to follow, which we hope will support you and your child. Never forget that you are your child's greatest advocate.


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