Connecting Principles: Post-Pandemic Mental Health Impacts on Students and Staff

DULUTH, Minn. — In this week’s Connecting Principles segment, we take a look at the increased trend of mental health effects post-pandemic on students and staff.

Being an educator goes beyond just teaching academics. Educators play a vital role in student development and, right now, there’s a heightened need to connect and address student social, emotional, and behavioral needs post-pandemic.

“We are seeing a significant rise in the tasks and responsibilities that educators are really being held responsible for.” Director of Coordinated Early Intervention Services and Equity of the Northland Learning Center, Beth Shermoen,¬†weighing in on the current needs of students nationwide and right here in the Northland.

“Most recently the 2022 student MN survey came out and those numbers were staggering regarding anxiety and depression with our youth and our schools today,” Shermoen stated.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the 2022 survey showed that 29% of students reported long-term mental health problems compared to 23% in 2019.

Shermoen sites the rise, in part, due to pandemic disruptions. “During the pandemic, we really saw an increase in the student stress, trauma, and triggers that students were experiencing.”

This — raising alarm for more mental health supports and resources. “That’s an area that we, as schools, haven’t addressed great. Now, since the pandemic, a lot of that focus is there.”¬†You heard there from Duluth Public Schools Climate Coordinator, Jacob Laurent.

Laurent went on to say, three key factors are dire to understanding and supporting a student’s wellbeing. “We call it SEB; “social, emotional, and behavioral.” That’s the other side of academics and I know, just speaking for Duluth schools, that’s where we are investing a lot of our time in the past few years because the need is there.”

But when discussing the well-being of students, Shermoen states, “We cannot forget about the impact it has on our educators. It’s imperative to have open-lines of communication, to remember that it’s really critical to have work-life balance, to make sure that they don’t forget the joys that they also have in life.”

& While it sometimes seems like they can do it all — educators simply do not have the tools, nor capacity, to do so.

“Community providers are really one of our biggest assets because as schools struggle internally with staffing, we cannot provide that level of care that many of our kids need,” said Laurent.

Laurent further explains that understanding those needs is an evolving task. “We will be years away to truly know the impact of what statewide distance learning caused.”

Both Shermoen and Laurent are apart of an upcoming virtual conference called Whole Child Compass, held by JJEM Education & Consulting, for educators, family members, and community leaders to learn how to navigate the ever-changing needs of students in and out of the classroom.

The conference will take place virtually on August 10 from 8:30 am – 2:00 pm.

Click here for registration details and more information.

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