Isolation from closed schools and limited interaction with peers to say nothing of poor academic achievement have severely challenged school administrators.
The team at Teen Esteem here in the Tri-Valley is seeing it first hand as phone calls from administrators looking for help have soared in the last 18 months. I have been associated with Teen Esteem since 2012 as a board member and advisor. The organization, which is nearing its 30th anniversary locally, provides the resources to help students and their parents make healthy choices. During the shutdown, it pivoted to virtual classroom presentation and this year its well-trained and passionate speakers have been back in the classrooms and schools throughout the area.
One middle school administrator wrote to Teen Esteem, “Like the rest of the world, we are having a lot of issues with our students and their behavior, tons of mental health issues, and a huge quantity of suspensions.” This particular school had 41 suspensions in a four-month period and typically averaged 15 suspensions for an entire school year.
A recent email included these responses from students after an assembly on bullying:
• “This assembly made me think about what I said in the past. I didn’t realize how much of a ‘bully’ I was.”
• “I learned ways I could cope with stress and really think about my actions and thoughts before committing them.”
• “I have never been bullied but I may have bullied someone without realizing I was bullying them. Now I will be more careful about what I say and do.”
• “Teen Esteem explained kindness in a way I’ve never seen somebody show before, and it’s pretty cool!”
Teen Esteem founder and Executive Director Linda Turnbull has been outspoken in her concern about teenagers’ mental health before the pandemic and the lockdowns and other policies exacerbated an already bad situation. Suicides are up sharply as are incidents of students harming themselves.
A recent email read, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of an accelerating mental health crisis among adolescents. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health and in December, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued an advisory on protecting youth mental health. “The pandemic era’s unfathomable number of deaths, pervasive sense of fear, economic instability, and forced physical distancing from loved ones, friends, and communities have exacerbated the unprecedented stresses young people already faced.”
You can check out Teen Esteem’s resources at Teen Esteem