Professionals preparing for mental health among students as back to school nears | Canadian

As we get closer to back to school, many experts are taking a look at how youth mental health has been impacted by the pandemic.

A recent poll by LifeWorks found that 56 per cent of respondents said there was some negative impact on their children due to the events of the last two years, such as the pandemic.

The greatest negative impact on mental health was noted in the 10 to 14 age group.

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CFS Saskatoon family and community program supervisor Kendall Thomas-McEachern said their organization is seeing an influx of anxiety and worry in earlier stages for children.

“I think the pandemic really brought this overall state of overwhelm for a lot of individuals, especially kids,” Thomas-McEachern said.

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“Overwhelm is essentially when life happens a lot quicker than we can process. Depending on a kid’s developmental stage, their processing can be a lot trickier.”

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education will be focusing on students’ and teachers’ mental health during the next school year.

The 2022-23 budget will provide $603,000 to support initiatives of bullying intervention and the promotion of positive mental health and student safety.

The government will also continue to offer Mental Health First Aid training to school divisions with a goal of having at least one staff member trained in each school in Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions.

As of June 2022, 926 staff members have been trained, with 733 out of 736 schools having at least one person trained in mental health first aid.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Tamara Hinz said kids nowadays are more aware and knowledgeable of current events than any generation before.

“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re seeing more anxiety in that age group, whether it be related to the pandemic or climate change,” Hinz added.

Hinz said parents can work on getting their kids back into a routine before school begins.

“If kids are having a lot of what we would call ‘anticipatory anxiety’ related to going back to school, families can do a little bit of their own exposure therapy,” Hinz said.

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“That might look like practising the walking route to school before school starts, even for younger children — hanging around the schoolyard, maybe playing at the playground a few times before school starts.”

Click to play video: 'Preparing kids to return to school: Family Matters'

Preparing kids to return to school: Family Matters

Preparing kids to return to school: Family Matters

Hinz said getting children back into the school space and environment can be really helpful.

15-year-olds and up suffering more

The LifeWorks poll also revealed children 15 and older have more anxiety about the future compared with the Canadian average.

USask Student Wellness Centre manager Jocelyn Orb acknowledged it’s a big transition going from high school to university.

She said the university has supports in place to support those students to alleviate the anxiety they may be feeling.

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“There’s academic advisors in every college. There’s wonderful supports in the library,” Orb said.

Students can also connect with professionals at the Student Wellness Centre if they need help managing their anxiety or depression. These services are also available to USask students at other campuses in the province.

Orb said though they haven’t seen all students in person yet, the university knows students do have increased levels of anxiety due to COVID-19 and isolation.

“Some students did well with the online learning, the shift to more virtual. And some students really struggled and found it hard to focus and didn’t really like that way of engaging with their studies and faculty and their fellow students,” Orb said.

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For incoming and returning university students, Orb recommends getting ahead of stress by staying organized and prepared.

“Come to campus ahead of when you start and find out where your classroom is, figure out exactly what your courses are and grab your textbooks,” Orb said.

As for those dealing with stress around social interaction, Orb suggests taking small steps such as reaching out to the person sitting beside them.

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These students can also try joining a campus club to get involved or head to orientation to interact with other students.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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