Addressing Behavioral Health Issues in Education Settings During COVID-19
July 7, 2020
By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP
Associate Medical Director
By now, there is much familiarity with the challenges faced by higher educational institutions when it comes to COVID-19. Physical distancing, modified classrooms, and altered schedules are but a few measures implemented. In response to the medical and economic realities, unprecedented changes are occurring at an administrative level, with low enrollments, cuts to programs, and decreased staff pay.
For students, there are serious behavioral health considerations evident already. One April 2020 study (www.activeminds.org/studentsurvey/) surveying high school and college-aged students found over 90% of students reported increased anxiety/stress, and 80% reported increased sadness and feelings of isolation. Nearly all, then, are experiencing distress associated with the pandemic, on top of what is already a challenging time in life.
The question then becomes, what can be done? Chances are you already have some resources available to students, in the form of student heath services or counseling centers. But as you deal with distressed students, what are you doing to support teaching and administrative staff? The reality is that educational institutions have been some of the most disrupted during COVID-19, and that means an increase in behavioral health concerns for everyone involved. COVID-19 is not an “us and them” situation, but rather just “us.”
These times call for a concerted effort to be made to support the health of students and staff. Take time to put actionable plans in place that serve the need. This may include additional training on recognizing distress or providing some concrete skills for managing COVID-related fear. It probably means bringing in some external help to figure out the best ways to serve your population. Many of us have expertise in managing COVID-related behavioral health conditions, and that expertise can make a huge difference in the health and wellbeing of those impacted by COVID.
The behavioral health challenges faced during this pandemic require the same dedicated attention that has been given to protecting students and staff from the virus itself. Doing this will help ensure that people are not just managing, but managing well, and not just surviving this challenging time, but thriving despite the challenges.
Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.