Students are stressed and lonely – here’s how schools can help
Students’ mental health and wellbeing are increasingly becoming a focal point for schools. After all, these issues impact every aspect of students’ day-to-day lives, including their ability to succeed academically. Addressing these issues, however, is no small task considering nearly half of 11 to 17-year-olds say they are stressed out and more than two million have major depression issues – a rise of more than 4% in the last six years, according to the non-profit Mental Health America.
So how can schools best identify and support students who are struggling with stress and loneliness? Impero and Mental Health America recently partnered on a white paper to help. “Mental health in America’s schools: A guide to support students” provides information on the warning signs, as well as tips for early intervention and support.
Causes and warning signs of stress and loneliness
Some of the top issues students are stressed about include getting good grades, preparing for the future, loneliness, their appearance/body image, and juggling priorities. Meanwhile, loneliness, according to Mental Health America, can stem from factors such as a move to a new neighborhood, changing schools, their parents getting a divorce or having an older brother or sister move out of the house, among others.
High levels of stress or loneliness can have serious consequences up to and including a higher rate of suicide. It’s important to pay attention if students are:
- Feeling angry or easily frustrated
- Experiencing tiredness, likely caused by poor sleep
- Losing their temper with peers
- Having frequent headaches or other unexplained ailments
- Experiencing changes in appetite
- Having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
- Feeling sad/moody/nervous/anxious
- Feeling they can’t handle life’s challenges
- Shunning friends and activities
8 strategies to deal with stress
School personnel and parents can help students by watching for the warning signs above, and intervening early. Here are eight strategies to help students deal with stress:
- Remind them to be kind to themselves. It sounds simple, but just letting students know that no one is perfect can help. Reinforce that they should try their best and eventually they will see the reward.
- Help them manage their time. Stressed students frequently feel overwhelmed and that can lead to them deciding it is not worth trying.
- Don’t forget the basics. Encourage students to eat healthy while avoiding excessive caffeine and sugar. Sleep is also crucial, so counsel them to stick to set bedtimes whenever possible.
- Look for signs of substance abuse. Teens under stress are more susceptible to using drugs, alcohol, or vaping.
- Let them know it’s OK to “let it out.” Laughing or crying can help a student release emotions.
- Help them relax. Students need a break from stress, so encouraging them to listen to music, take a break to play a game, or provide opportunities for them to stretch or meditate, could be helpful.
- Tell them you care about them. Students, like everyone else, need to feel appreciated. Knowing that someone cares about their wellbeing can be a comfort.
- Remind them that it’s OK to ask for help. No one should suffer by themselves, especially when help is available.
Schools can also help by adding social-emotional learning programming which can help students learn to persevere when dealing with stress and loneliness. And adults can help by educating themselves about social media and how student behave online. Mental Health America notes that a quarter of students say social media has a negative effect on them. Social media can also be a platform for cyberbullying.
How Impero helps support mental health
Impero partnered with Mental Health America to create a keyword library specific to mental health concerns. Impero Education Pro’s monitoring tool alerts school personnel if students type or search for key words and phrases – even those that might not be immediately recognizable to adults – so that schools can intervene and provide the help students need. For example, “ehtilb” – a term or hashtag people use mainly when discussing or searching depression, cutting, or eating disorders. Or “kms” – text speak for “kill myself.”
Impero EdAware’s browser-based software can also help schools and teachers do a better job of monitoring the mental health of students by showing a holistic view of every student’s wellbeing. It helps schools record and store records of incidents and concerns to inform interventions and referrals when needed.