When courses resume, colleges put together for psychological well being challenges | information

Students returning to school may well come into class with mental health issues made worse by the stresses of life during a pandemic and the forced isolation that it creates, officials said Wednesday.

Sherri Smith, acting assistant secretary for the Department of Education, told lawmakers that even before the pandemic, one in five students had “some level of mental health problems, and that number has increased” since COVID-19 caused school closings and disrupted academic timetables continue to offer face-to-face teaching.

The stress of trying to help struggling children while they cope with the challenges of working in an academic setting during the pandemic creates a tense atmosphere for the adults in school buildings as well, Monica McHale-Small, a psychologist and former headmistress, said during one joint hearing on Tuesday in front of the Education and Children and Youth Committees of the House of Representatives.

Psychologists who work in schools “find that they spend a lot of time supporting teachers. The teachers are in a very heightened state of anxiety and have had trauma in the last year, ”she said. “Most teachers don’t want to be isolated. You have adjustment problems. But they are also afraid of what might happen. There is a lot of stress in our schools right now. “

The state plans to use part of its school funding from the American Rescue Plan to address student mental health issues. Local schools are also expected to use some of their ARP funding to address mental health issues, Smith said.

The U.S. Department of Education approved the state’s plan for $ 1.6 billion in ARP school funding earlier this month.

This state plan explicitly mentions mental health as a primary concern: “Mental health and socio-emotional well-being have been by far the most frequently cited priorities by stakeholders addressing the needs of the most severely affected students,” reads the national language plan to use the ARP school resources. “Teachers have been told that they need instruction on how to provide mental health support and trauma-informed approaches to students as well as personal support for their own mental health and wellbeing in the face of burnout,” according to the PDE’s plan.

Mercer County’s State Representative Mark Longietti, Democratic Chair of the Education Committee, asked how schools should use federal funds if local officials are reluctant to hire staff with temporary federal funds.

“The money will be used up at some point. And so you look in a specific school setting and say the pandemic exposed that problem. We could use more mental health professionals, but those dollars will be used up, ”he said.

“We’re relying more and more on the class teachers, they wear so many hats, but what’s the answer to using those dollars?” Asked Longietti.

Smith said schools can spend some of the money on professional development or use the funds to hire outside mental health professionals without hiring them permanently.

The federal dollars can be spent until September 2024.

“Let’s hope the need for that intensity subsides and we move into a more normal year for our students by 2024,” said Smith.

John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

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