How to Address Mental Health Issues of Youth in Fallout From COVID-19
There will be many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic will reshape American life. While our immediate attention is on the impact the virus has had on physical health, we also need to address how the pandemic will impact the mental health of our young people and their families.
Young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a consensus that young people will “bounce back,” young people of color will need even more attention and support to address the social-emotional residue from sheltering in place.
How then should we address the wave of mental health issues for a post-COVID-19 America? For starters, schools should dedicate at least one week to social-emotional healing for teachers and students.
During this week, staff and students should have opportunities to share their experiences, talk about their fears and build a culture of social-emotional wellbeing. This means teachers should identify ways to share their stories with students, and help students learn how to discuss their fears and their hopes.
Nonprofit organizations must become mental health “first responders.” Perhaps more than any sector, community-based organizations have a pulse on the communities they serve. Once the immediate threat of the virus is lessened, community organizations should focus on two things:
1. Identifying and responding to potential trauma and mental health issues in young people and their families.
2. Finding ways to re-establish social trust and cultivate community bonds.
We must assume that everyone’s mental health has been impacted by the pandemic. That’s why it’s important for community organizations to focus attention on ways to boost social-emotional wellbeing.