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Op-Ed

How To Safeguard Students’ Mental Health While Learning From Home

By Sophie Bishop
February 03, 2021

One of the most drastically affected areas throughout the pandemic has been the education sector – an area where students have been subjected to learning from home while an increased level of uncertainty has continually rocked their own lives. This raises its own questions. How, for example, can teachers effectively safeguard their students’ mental health while they’re learning from home? And how important a role can they really have?

Safeguarding Students’ Mental Health: Consider The Influences

It’s no secret that students do their best work when they can fully concentrate on their education. But, thanks to the various lockdowns and learning from home, this tends to be a lot easier said than done, creating a huge number of other home-based distractions to now account for.

However, certain schools believe that taking a holistic approach to mental health – considering the additional stressors that pupils face – could make a big difference here, helping create informed lesson structures that are sympathetic to each individual students’ mental health and circumstances.

Pay Attention To Overall Wellbeing

While it may be easy to tell if a child is suffering in person, judging this in a virtual learning environment can be a lot more difficult.

It’s important, therefore, for teachers to keep this in mind now more than ever, since many studies have demonstrated a huge spike in lockdown-based domestic violence incidents.

A learner in silhouette works at his laptop at a desk.
Hannah Wei, Unsplash.

In a report disclosed by the NSPCC, for example, the number of counseling sessions given around child sexual abuse had increased by almost 200% since March 2020. With fewer pupils having access to the sanctuary of school, those with hostile home environments could easily fall behind, becoming reliant on the vigilance of educators.

To combat this, requesting further training on how to safeguard online learning could equip you with the skills required to identify and report concerns of abuse, helping provide a safe space for your students to discuss their mental health concerns.

Stay Up To Date

Although it’s important to focus on practical issues, one of the simplest ways to safeguard your pupil’s mental wellbeing is to simply stay up to date on current advice.

Consider accessing relevant resources, such as the NSPCC’s CASPAR newsletter, which provides weekly updates on child safeguarding issues and policy. The U.K. government’s website also regularly publishes pages with tips on best practices for remote learning, links to informative articles and more.

Using these materials to stay informed could not only give you ideas on how to create more personalized and engaging online classes but also teach you new ways to bolster the mental health of your students.

Be Prepared To Deal With Loss

As sad as it is to say, with the death rate now into the millions, many of us will experience some form of loss before the pandemic is over. As such, it’s important to prepare yourself in advance to deal with any bereavement issue should it arise.

In Child Bereavement U.K.’s recently released document, this detailed specific tips on how schools can best support students who are dealing with loss, stating that the effects of teacher response should not be underestimated.

Moreover, some headteachers have come out to say that any staff member who is currently experiencing loss themselves should consider using their own emotions as a way to teach pupils that it’s okay to be sad. They argue that, in doing so, this could encourage an open conversation around emotional wellbeing, allowing students to develop a healthier response to their mental health concerns.

Final Thoughts

As the current pandemic continues to affect the world, there is no doubt that teachers will have to adapt to ensure student education doesn’t suffer.

However, in light of the changing environment, this could be a lot easier said than done, raising questions over how to tackle safeguarding issues most effectively.

Currently, adapting your teaching style, considering the situations faced by pupils and remaining well-informed appear to be the best ways forward, giving you the best chance of protecting your students’ mental health while they remain learning at home.

Featured Image: Josefa nDiaz, Unsplash.

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