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3 Strategies for Helping Students in Crisis Return to School

A student in mental health or behavioral crisis can display obvious actions such as punching or screaming. But other mental health struggles can be hidden, including suicidal ideations, depression and anxiety. As more students return to school after long periods of virtual learning, schools need to be prepared to respond strategically to all types of intensive behaviors, say school psychology experts.

One universal and preventative recommendation for schools is to dedicate time to acclimating all students to being back in the school environment and acknowledging the hardships students faced this past year.

The pandemic’s toll on student mental health is a major concern for school leaders. Mental health-related emergency visits for children ages 5-11 increased by 24% between April and October 2020, compared to the year before, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, emergency visits for children ages 12-17 increased by 31%, the study showed.

Here are more targeted ways schools can support students in crisis.

Have a response plan

When responding to a highly charged situation where a student may be acting violent or agitated, there should be pre-established protocols. The designation of a crisis response team can take the guesswork out of who responds to an emergency and how, said Jessica Dirsmith, a clinical assistant professor of school psychology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s 2017 School Psychologist of the Year.

Additionally, school staffs should be trained in trauma-informed practices, Dirsmith said. That professional development can be essential for when a student’s anger is escalating. Instead of making snap decisions in the heat of the moment, training in trauma-informed decision-making can help teachers rely on evidence-based techniques to reduce behavioral concerns, she said.

Avoid punitive reactions

Threatening detention when a student is in immediate crisis is not effective and can actually create a heightened level of agitation or despair, Patrice Leverett, an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and an expert in crisis response said.

“I think sometimes when we’re in a situation where a student is particularly escalated, there can sometimes be a little bit of defensiveness [from educators],” Leverett said. “If we can stay calm in that situation and kind of model calm, that can sometimes help the student re-regulate by just being in a calmer environment again.”

Form community partnerships

Having pre-established relationships with community providers can benefit schools as they respond to student mental health needs, particularly if a student’s level of need is beyond what the school can provide. For example, integrated mental health teams can help facilitate appointments for students to meet with counselors either within the school or with a community provider, Dirsmith said.

“There was already a hope to kind of integrate more community and school partnerships previously, but it’s just become an absolute necessity,” Leverett said. “Now, the needs are just too great to be managed within this school building.”

Excerpted from ” 3 Strategies for Helping Students in Crisis Return to School” in K-12 DIVE. Read the full article online.

Source: K-12 Dive | 3 Strategies for Helping Students in Crisis Return to School, https://www.k12dive.com/news/3-strategies-to-help-students-in-crisis-as-they-return-to-school/596254 | © 2021 Industry Dive

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