6 Ways Teachers Can Support Students’ Mental Health When Returning To School During COVID-19

Globally every person is experiencing a major ongoing event, the COVID-19 pandemic and schools as a whole are learning strategies of coping for both students and teachers. The students in your classroom each have had individual experiences and emotions over this time. So it is important as an educator to know the ways you can support your students’ mental health when returning to school during the COVID19 pandemic.  

As a communication platform Skool Loop works to assist communication between teachers, students, schools and families. However, teachers should be aware of the warning signs and help options available to them, so that they can be prepared to support students’ mental health in an appropriate and competent manner.  

1. Be aware and empathetic of every child in your care.
Whatever year level they are in, school students are growing and developing, factors such as family, media, social media and other individual environmental factors are impacting their emotions and worldview. Having an awareness of students that are acting out of character or just need extra attention in the classroom provides students with a safe space to feel calm and safe. Regardless of their situation. You may want to conduct routine emotional check-ins with your students. Asking how they are and consistent positive reinforcement are great ways to create a safe emotional space in your classroom.

2. Know the warning signs of distress in students.
As a teacher or educator, there are some warning signs you can look out for, to ensure you can refer a student to relevant services if they are struggling with their mental health. When returning to school after COVID19 educators will expect to experience challenges amongst pupils. But should monitor for sudden or extreme changes in student behaviour, moods, and activities.

Distress signs may include: 

  • Consistently refusing to participate in normal activities. 
  • Constant tiredness. 
  • New signs of phobias or fears pertaining to social interactions.  
  • Unusual and frequent signs of sickness such as dizziness, stomach ache, shaking, headaches etc.

3. Stay updated and understanding of the current COVID-19 rules and regulations 
The COVID19 pandemic has been an ongoing event now for more than 2 years, and the rules and regulations are constantly changing. Educational institutes have a responsibility to be clear with their employers on the updated rules as they come. However if you are unclear, the most updated information should be found on the government websites.  

 For New Zealand Schools, view the framework here. | For Australian Schools, view the framework here.  

4. Have an awareness of your school’s own support resources
Many schools have school counsellors, helplines and support for students and teachers offered within the school grounds. Whether that is mental health, financial support, family support or support that can be offered within the school – as a teacher it is important to be informed of these resources and support networks. So that students can be identified and supported early if they are struggling to cope.   

5. Be familiar with the local or national mental health services available 
There is a range of great mental health services for students and teachers. These can be conducted remotely through a phone call or online. They can also be routine check-ins or group events to assist with mental health. Many of these resources are free in NZ and Australia and are valuable for students struggling with their wellbeing at this time.  

 Here are some resources available in NZ and Australia – local schools should have contacts of additional services that are valuable for your local students.  

Ministry of Health resources and services, link here.  | Mental Health Services Australia, link here.  

 6. Be aware of your own mental health and wellbeing.
Teaching can be a highly stressful environment that can take a significant emotional toll on some people. As a teacher, the most important thing is to prioritise your own mental health and wellbeing. Be aware if you identify warning signs in yourself. Make sure you feel supported by your team, school management, family and friends. Prioritising your own wellbeing will ultimately ensure you are giving your best for your students and other staff members. Modelling good coping methods for students, such as being calm, honest, and caring will help the students to build understanding and become self-aware of their own emotional balance.