North Texas schools have been responding to mental health concerns that students are facing, including worries about violence at school. A recent school shooting in Michigan has prompted Dallas ISD parents to find ways to discuss these issues with their children, according to CBS.
Monica Munoz, a psychologist and licensed specialist in school psychology, told CBS parents have struggled to find the right words for these discussions.
“I’ve just seen a lot more depression [and] anxiety in young students than I’ve ever seen before. It just, it feels like the world is on their shoulders,” said Munoz.
Dallas ISD has already invested millions in support for students, including hiring extra counselors. According to CBS, this was primarily done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Munoz added she had seen students expressing their concerns about issues they face.
“A lot of ‘what’s the point, right? If all these things are happening in the world, what is the world that I’m coming into, that I’m trying to grow in?'” She continued, “These are the dream years. They’re trying to dream about the future. The future feels like a scary place.”
According to CBS, students have been reaching out for the support they need more than ever. Munoz said there are ways that parents can make sure they get this support at home, too.
She told CBS that more structure and dedicated time to talk are two such ways.
Munoz advised parents to ask open-ended questions such as “‘what was the best part of your day?’, ‘what was the worst thing that happened today?’, or ‘What do you wish you could have done differently?'”
Another important thing parents should do, according to Munoz, is be there to listen.
“One thing that comes up a lot is that students feel very invalidated when they share their feelings, and they get shut down often,” she said. “So, they share [that] they’re feeling sad. ‘Oh well, you shouldn’t feel sad. This is how you should feel.’ ‘I’m feeling angry.’ ‘You shouldn’t feel angry. This is how you should feel’. It’s really important that we allow kids to feel and have a place to share those feelings.”
Munoz said some teens today have lost a lot of faith in the world, but they still have people rooting for them. She added that she has a lot of hope in today’s youth.
“They are so aware,” she said. “They understand mental health. They understand issues, emotions, and things that we didn’t talk about much when I was younger… social justice issues. They’re willing to change the world, we’ve just got to listen to them.”
Fox 4 also reported increased depression and anxiety amongst students during the pandemic.
A professor of psychiatry at the Harvard School of Public Health, Karestan Koenen said, “One thing we have found is that the rates of mental health problems among kids, particularly anxiety and stress, have doubled during the pandemic.”
Koenen emphasized the need for schools to provide more mental health counselors and resources.