Guest columnist Laura L. Paynter is a Licensed Supervisory Professional Clinical Counselor (PCC-S) in the state of Ohio and a Certified Case Manager (CCM).
After nearly a year of at-home learning, students returning to in-person classes feel like they can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
As families begin to send their students back to the classroom, Buckeye Health Plan shares the benefits of in-person learning for children’s mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions for Ohio students. Prior to the pandemic, mental health disorders were the most common diseases of childhood, affecting one in five children. Anxiety and depression were among the top diagnosed mental disorders in children ages 3-17, and suicide was the second-leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24.
As children remained at home, parents could see the toll the pandemic was having on their children’s mental health. According to a recent Gallup study, 30 percent of parents said their child was “experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and school closures.
Healthcare workers noted the spike in children’s suicidal ideations, depression and anxiety, as well. Mental health-related hospital visits increased by 31 percent in youth ages 12-17 years in 2020 compared to 2019.
In-person learning may be the remedy to mental health challenges, offering students a sense of community and support through a network of friendships, teachers and other resources. Most importantly, returning to in-person learning can lead to early detection, support and treatment of mental health challenges.
School staff are trained to spot the signs of mental health concerns, and districts across the state have made therapists and counselors available to address students’ mental health needs.
In response to the stress related to the pandemic and at-home risk factors, schools expect to see significant changes in student behavior when they return. To help children learn to identify, express and manage their complex emotions in a safe way, schools are implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports frameworks and activities.
Considerations are also being made to increase social and emotional learning through a dedicated curriculum that builds skills such as self-awareness, emotional regulation, flexible thinking, relationship building and responsible decision-making. Developing these skills supports students’ abilities to adapt during uncertain times.
For students suffering from suicidal thoughts, schools are connecting families to mental health resources, including Ohio’s CareLine, a toll-free emotional support call service created by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and administered in community settings where behavioral health professionals offer confidential support and connections to resources in times of personal or family crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In-person learning will be an adjustment for many families, but the benefits may outweigh the risks of prolonged isolation. Help is available for families with mental health concerns. Buckeye’s behavioral health crisis line to support members’ emotional needs is 1-866-246-4358, Press *
For more information, visit BuckeyeHealthPlan.com.
Buckeye Health Plan offers managed healthcare for Ohioans on Medicaid, Medicare, integrated Medicaid-Medicare (called MyCare Ohio) and the Health Insurance Exchange. Since 2004, Buckeye has been dedicated to improving the health of Ohioans, many with low incomes, by providing coordinated health care and other essential supports that individuals and families need to grow and thrive. Follow Buckeye on Twitter @Buckeye_Health and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BuckeyeHealthPlan. Buckeye is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corp., a leading multi-national healthcare enterprise offering core Medicaid, Medicare and specialty services.
Readers are invited to submit Opinion page essays on topics of regional or general interest. Send your 500-word essay for consideration to Ann Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Essays must include a brief bio and headshot of the writer. Essays rebutting today’s topics are also welcome.