Professors discuss impact of COVID-19 on mental health and education

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Last Monday, professors from the University of Shippensburg hosted a forum at the Ezra Lehman Memorial Library to reflect on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education and mental health.

Educational leadership professors Rhonda Brunner and Wendy Kubasko decided to answer the question, “How has COVID-19 changed American K-12 education?”

Brunner and Kubasko interviewed school and district administrators in Pennsylvania who interact with Shippensburg through the Superintendent Study Council or other programs.

“Dr. Brunner and I are teachers in the Educational Leadership Program. We teach and work closely with school and district leaders. In our interactions with these leaders, we have heard stories about how schools and districts were learning during the pandemic. It was a good time to study exactly what schools and districts were doing to meet the needs of students, teachers and families in their communities, “said Kubasko.

“Our study explored the perspectives of K-12 school and district leaders on how they engaged and supported members of their education community during the global pandemic.

The pandemic has opened a window on the lives of students and exposed inequalities that are invisible or perceived as such.

Food insecurities, access to technology and other equity issues have never been more critical to consider, ”Brunner added.

While the pandemic caused many problems, it helped address traditional educational practices, according to Brunner.

School and district leaders have become more aware of equity issues and have learned to be better communicators, she said. They also paid more attention to the emotional and social needs of staff and students.

Melissa McNelis, assistant professor of communication studies, explored the exacerbation of mental health problems during the pandemic and how to collectively reduce pain in future crises.

“The pandemic has created new stressors such as prolonged periods of isolated mourning due to social distancing regulations, indirect, systematic and institutional racism, sleep disturbances and uncertainty about health, death, unemployment and finances, ”McNelis said.

“As of June 2020, mental health outcomes following the pandemic included an increase in anxiety, depression, trauma and stress-related disorders (TSRD) attributed to COVID-19, onset or increased alcohol and substance use / abuse and suicidal ideation, ”McNelis said.

Students faced a plethora of mental health issues for years before the pandemic began, but in their demographics, these issues may become more and more prevalent.

Students face life transitions, academic and social responsibilities in addition to employment and financial issues and substance abuse, according to McNelis. These problems can make pre-existing mental health problems worse.

“With the world reopening, I hope those who have been most affected by the pandemic can tap into their social support systems, use their social skills to deal positively with stress, and reverse some of the adverse effects on mental health experienced since winter 2020, ”said McNelis.


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