Supporting Student Mental Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19
As you know, the outbreak of COVID-19 is significantly impacting schools and the way that they operate. Naturally, the uncertainty and talk about social isolation, changes to the norm and activity cancellations like sport games and arts, can result in increased levels of stress and anxiety for students and the wider school community.
Ultimately, a large amount of pressure is placed on staff while navigating this state of flux. Thinking about ways to support students during these times can feel overwhelming and at times can become overcomplicated. We understand that it can be difficult to know where to go first and want to make that process easier for you by acting as a connector to point you in the right direction. With the increases in isolation and distancing, fostering connection, student engagement, and wellbeing can help through simple practical tips such as:
- Knowing where to access tangible resources for teachers, carers and students
- Clear and positive communication
- Reminding students of batyr’s 5 tips
- Promote where students can access support
- Allowing flexibility where possible
- Considering what you can do for yourself
Knowing where to access tangible resources for teachers, carers and students
The services below offer an array of practical tips and support material relevant to coronavirus, social isolation and the associated stress and anxiety that young people may be experiencing. We encourage schools to:
- Use ReachOut forums and appropriately refer them to students. Students can connect and share their experiences with others, fostering a sense of community.
- Access Emerging Minds resources that provide practical tips for supporting students throughout COVID-19. These include videos, factsheets, podcasts and apps that empower teachers and carers to support students who are feeling stressed.
- Refer your school community to the Beyond Blue Support Service, which offers short term counselling referrals remotely via phone on 1300 224 636 or webchat here.
Clear & Positive Communication
- Being conscious of how we talk about this – What we often see the media and social feeds can contribute to fear and negativity. Providing clear information in a positive way to students and staff can reassure those around us. You might be the first person speaking about this period of time in a calm and positive way, and this can make a world of difference.
- Share mental health resources – Share resources that highlight common emotional reactions (e.g. fear, uncertainty, anxiety) and ways in which this can be managed (stay informed but take breaks from social media, self-care, stay connected with friends and family, services to reach out to etc). This should be school community wide and ongoing to ensure that you’re having long-lasting impact.
- Be attuned to racial discrimination – Encourage teachers, staff and students at your school to use inclusive language to bridge communities together. Implement a clear escalation process to respond swiftly, professionally and sensitively in the event of racial discrimination.
Remind students of batyr’s 5 tips:
- Look out: Encourage students to look out for each other and stay connected. Students, teachers and carers should keep an eye out for things like changes in mood or behaviour; avoiding being with friends and family; and being tired, irritated or aggressive. Change to someone’s regular behaviour can be a sign that they’re having a bit of a tough time and could use some extra support.
- Get Talking: Ask those who are showing signs of changes in behaviour how they’re going and if they’re okay. Ex. “I’ve noticed you haven’t been as social as you usually are. Is everything okay?” You might need to ask a few times how someone is before they’re ready to talk, but starting this conversation will let them know that you’re willing to have an open conversation and give them a helping hand.
- Listen Up: Provide students with the space to be open and honest with you. You don’t need to have all the answers, all you need to do is listen and acknowledge how they are feeling.
- Reach Out: If what students are expressing is out of the ballpark of teachers and carers, it’s important to know where they can get extra support. As mentioned below, Lifeline, headspace and e-headspace are great services for young people who are going through a tough time.
- Take Charge: Encourage students to do things that they enjoy, and that will keep them positive during this time of uncertainty. This could include connecting with friends regularly online, going for a walk in open spaces, having a pamper night or reading a good book. It could also include limiting time on social media if newsfeeds are becoming overwhelming for students.
Promote where students can access support:
- School support – Remind students where they can reach out for support at school and provide info about how they can organise a chat with the school counsellor or their year adviser.
- You don’t have to have all the answers – Giving options and encouraging students to reach out for support if needed can make a big difference. The following services can assist in wellbeing support throughout this time:
- Lifeline (13 11 14) – a 24/7 Crisis Support telephone hotline.
- Headspace, e-headspace – offering mental health literacy, online support with a mental health professional and in person drop in centres.
- ReachOut – includes multiple online resources and peer to peer forums
- GP – Most students aren’t aware that GP’s are also mental health professionals! They can go to a GP for support and a mental health care plan which enables people up to 10 free or subsidised sessions.
Allow flexibility where possible:
- Let students know how they can access academic support – provide students with reassurance and clear information about academic processes that will be in place to support them during this time, particularly year 12 students who are being affected.
Look after yourself:
- It can feel like a lot of pressure to navigate this unknown territory, provide academic support all whilst being attune to the wellbeing of your students. Remember to take time for yourself to recharge and reach out for support if you need it too. Research shows that breaks and self-care increase productivity and success. Now is the time we really put this into practice and do what we can to look out for each other. Let’s focus on things we can control and remember we are all in this together.
For more tips on small steps you can take to manage your mental health and wellbeing during this time check out our blog here. The wellbeing of you and your students is at the centre of what we do so please don’t hesitate to give your batyr coordinator a call if you have any questions or let us know if our Teacher PD program can help. We’re in this together!