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Student Reporting Labs
Student Reporting Labs
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As students across the country continue to experience the many changes the pandemic has brought, some are struggling to adjust to their "new normal." As a part of NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs, student reporter Teri Bell followed up with school counselor Edith Porter at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Delaware, on her predictions for students’ mental health in 2022 and how to help them.
As students across the country continue to experience the many changes the pandemic has brought, some are struggling to adjust.
Student Reporting Labs, our network of youth media programs, has been exploring this issue as part of a special program, "Our New Normal," that premieres online tonight.
As a part of that special coverage, student reporter Teri Bell spoke with school counselor Edith Porter at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Delaware, on her predictions for students' mental health in 2022 and what schools can do to help.
Hi, Ms. Porter. Thank you for speaking with me today.
Edith Porter, School Counselor, Caesar Rodney High School:
Hi, Teri. Thank you for having me.
Last year, Student Reporting Labs interviewed you about teen mental health during the pandemic and your predictions for this school year.
Let's take a listen to part of that interview.
There will be more check-ins. I'm predicting that parents will be more open to resources, that we can have open conversations about race, about gender, about the pandemic, about mental health.
I predict that, when we come together, we have learned something. We have learned how to treat each other a little bit better.
So, what have you seen this school year, and are those things still happening?
Yes, so, this school year, I have seen more students referring themselves to mental health therapy, teachers e-mailing, more parents coming into the school looking for help for their children.
I have seen a lot of children bring their peers down. I'm finding that the conversations about grief have increased, because, as you know, Teri, the pandemic, there was a lot of loss. A lot of the students have lost family members. They haven't been able to grieve properly, and they haven't had any grief counseling.
What mental health issues are you seeing students struggle with this year, and is it the same as last year, or are new issues becoming more common?
A lot of kids are struggling with how to stay organized, making classes, how to balance work-life, being introduced back into having friends and socializing with a mask on in the school.
Some kids have struggled over COVID with substance issues, you know, smoking, vaping, drinking, things like that. And parents have contacted me to sort of give resources and help those kids.
What do you think students need most right now to improve their mental health?
One of my favorite things is, people need to be held, heard, and understood.
So, a lot of times, we need to ask young people like yourself, what do you need? How are you doing? How does that feel? And not be afraid of what the answer is, because sometimes you guys can say some interesting things to us. And, as an adult, my job is not to judge you in mental health. It's to hear you and to understand what's going on, and allow you to say it, and express yourself, and know that you're OK.
Because of the Internet, everybody's already diagnosed themselves.
So, sometimes, I have to kind of stray them away from that and just focus on yourself and what's happening with you.
If you're anxious about this, let's figure out a solution-focused therapy. So, what's the problem that we can handle right now? Can't handle what will happen in five months, right? Let's get you focused on, let's get back to class. I have a test. I'm anxious.
OK, let's breathe. Let's focus. Let's see if we can get you back 30 minutes into that. And we're going to do one thing at a time. So, it's teaching them how to be present.
So, I'm a senior. What advice would you give seniors that are getting ready to leave high school, but missed such a critical part in their social development due to the pandemic?
Involve yourself in clubs, introduce yourself to more people, less social media. Sorry.
But more face-to-face engagements as possible, because, when you go to college, there is going to be a lot of interaction with new people, and you want to feel confident about that.
If you could give one piece of advice to schools around the country to help their students with mental health, what would it be?
Mental health therapists in the building, licensed mental health therapists, knowledgeable people that can provide resources in and out of school, able to train the staff in the importance of mental health.
And understand that this is something that's not going away, that it's something that we need to continue on for years to come.
And to hear more about how students are adjusting to life during the pandemic, tune into the Student Reporting Labs special, "Our New Normal."
You can find that right now on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
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