WACO, TX — According to health experts, 1 in 5 people suffer from some type of mental illness and it is no secret this pandemic has caused people’s mental health to decline, including students and teachers.
But, now that school is about to start up again, and most students are heading back to in-person learning, there may be a new wave of mental health issues on the horizon.
Teaching online, took a mental toll on many educators in 2020.
“Trying to find that balance where your students and teaching were fine but also making sure that you were doing fine,” David Gerada, Assistant Band Director at University High School said.
"I had to split those two roles, and time manage very well so that way I wasn’t overwhelmed," Cassandra Benjamin, a 2nd-grade teacher at West Avenue, said.
But learning through a screen was also difficult for students.
"A lot of it was consistency and community that these students were missing out on,” Gerada said.
According to Texans Recovering Together, from October through July, the organization received nearly 19,000 calls for help in regards to mental health. Of those, 10 percent were calls from people 18 or under. But, even with school almost back in session, some students are feeling the pressure of returning to in-person learning.
“Extracurricular, new routines. New routines is something different, and dealing with COVID on top of it can be overloading. We want to make sure we don’t get overloaded here in Central Texas,” Vince Erickson, Project Manager with Texans Recovering Together, said.
According to health experts, there are two different groups where most students fall in regards to their mental health. The first being those who actually thrived in online learning and enjoyed being close to family during the first part of the pandemic. While the other group of students is those who faced a harder time with the isolation and faced depression and anxiety from not being able to see peers.
“We expect them to kind of thrive when they go back to school this year. That other group that thrived at home is going to have a little more anxiety going back, just stepping into a school and mainly that social anxiety that they are going to experience,” Jennifer Zuri, Director of School-Based Mental Health Services at Klaras Center for Families, said.
Gerada has already seen that anxiety first hand, as band camp has already gotten underway this summer.
“You can see these students come back after not interacting with many people and it's like little fish in big water,” Gerada said.
But there are some signs that your child may be suffering from more than just your regular back-to-school anxiety.
There may be a change in sleep patterns, appetite, they become more irritable or are isolating themselves.
“Listening is one of the best things that parents can do in order to alleviate some of that anxiety,” Zuri said.
And as school ramps back up, teachers want students to know that they are not alone.
“We can teach them, and yeah they are going to know things, but you really have to take 80 -90 percent of your time to show them that we are a community, and through that we can get through anything that is thrown at them,” Gerada said.