MIAMI (WSVN) - Stress among students is common as they juggle school, their social and personal life and, these days, the pandemic.
A priority is being put on their mental health by Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
A specific department within the school district helps educators spot signs of a student who may be overwhelmed.
School has been back in session in Broward County for two and a half weeks and for M-DCPS, it has been two weeks since summer break ended.
One thing teachers and staff across all districts will likely be keeping an eye on is the mental health of their students.
“That support can look like individual counseling, group counseling, family counseling and/or referred to a possible agency that we do contract with,” said M-DCPS counselor Lianie Cuba.
Take the typical teen and pre-teen concerns of nerves, hormones and figuring out where they fit in, add what can be an incredibly isolating experience due to months of remote learning and mental health can really take a hit.
“Being locked up in the house was a little bit difficult since I was already struggling with both my anxiety and depression, so it kind of just went downhill from there,” said student Amy Cerna Sanchez.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found twice as many children and teenagers felt symptoms of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to time before the pandemic.
Four years ago, M-DCPS created a Department of Mental Health.
“We got a running start, even before COVID, with this department,” said Sally Alayon with M-DCPS Department of Health. “We have 73 mental health coordinators this past year, we will be adding 45 to that number, so now we’ll be at 118 mental health coordinators.”
M-DCPS is looking to hire about 100 additional part-timers to help across the district.
With so many students tackling so many heavy subjects that can impact their academics as well as their mental health, teachers have to be trained to keep an eye on students’ social and emotional learning.
“We recognize that a teacher is not a mental health professional, but these trainings are just to give them the surface level, just enough information that they can start to determine that possibly that child needs additional help, additional support, and that they’re quickly referred to a mental health professional,” said Alayon.
The National Institute for Healthcare Management said mental health-related ER visits jumped in younger and older children between mid-March and October of 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.
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