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New CDC data sheds light on youth mental health during the pandemic

Jennifer North-Morris, or “Ms. Nomo” as her students like to call her, is eager to fill her classroom again.
Posted at 6:51 AM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 09:51:19-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Throughout the pandemic, elementary and high school students found themselves struggling more with their mental health, according to new data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

And while many students are benefitting from being back in the classroom, Ironwood Elementary School Associate Principal Vanessa Scafede said the students are still adjusting.

"We have been seeing students struggling now that they are back in our classrooms," she said. “It can show in the form of outburst and speaking out of turn it can show in fidgeting or even in them being really quiet and not participating."

The CDC data reports about 44% of high school students felt hopeless and sad during the last year. Over half of those surveyed reported abuse from a parent or other adult in the home. But CDC leaders also report that these struggles were already worsening before the pandemic.

"It is our goal to make sure that every student on our campus has at least one adult that they feel that they can go to when they are struggling or having any problems," Scafede said. "We work hard to identify any concerns that students are having early on."

In the Marana Unified School District, there's a program that administrators in the district like Scafede use to support students. It's called Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.

"It’s not a program that you buy, it’s more of the systems that you have in place and the systems that you have for students," she said. "You’re really focusing on those positive behaviors that you want to see from students so that they know what’s expected of them.”

She said that all teachers and staff in the district are trained to use this program. It's a case by case basis, but Scafede said they make sure to debrief with the student to enforce positive behavior.

“Whether it’s taking a break or a walk around the campus or a time out somewhere else, we give them what they need,” she said.

If you're concerned or looking for student support, Scafede said to contact your teacher and school counselors for assistance.