Just over 83% of the more than 1,300 high school students surveyed were concerned about mental health when taking online classes, according to a survey conducted by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Youth.
“It’s a combination of everything. School has been a vital part of our life for years now, and removing ourselves from the classroom environment robs us of such important aspects of our teenage years, ”said Reagan Budasi, member of the Youth Advisory Board of the governor.
She said socialization is a key part in developing a well-rounded citizen, but with distance education, peer interaction is limited.
“Feelings of loneliness are very common with distance learning, and it’s hard to interact with friends when you can’t be physically together,” Budasi said. “It’s also harder to reach out and find healthy ways to cope. When you’re not surrounded by peers you know you can count on, it’s easy to fall into bad coping habits and you start to feel hesitant when asking for help.
She believes the pandemic has had an impact on the way young people treat and manage their mental and social well-being.
Over the past two and a half school years, thousands of students in Guam’s public and private schools have had to take online classes after the pandemic forced schools to close. The governor closed schools for the first time, and with it in-person learning, in March 2020.
“Having to deal with COVID-19 in addition to academic stressors has been and still is extremely difficult. I was struggling with my poor social health during the first few weeks of the pandemic because there was no social interaction, ”said Cheyunne Ahn, YAC president and student at Southern High School. “Especially now with the limitations in sports and extracurricular activities, there aren’t many ways for us as students to deal with our stress adequately.”
Although the GDOE provides resources on social and emotional well-being, Ahn believes students lack information on available support programs / services.
“This past school year, the GDOE, as well as each of the public schools, have failed to provide sufficient coping strategies for struggling students. We, as students, felt that our mental and social well-being was certainly not the top priority of GDOE, ”Ahn said.
The Guam Daily Post has contacted GDOE to respond to Ahn’s comments. GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said students in need of targeted support for behavioral health services are referred to school psychologists or behavioral clinic trainees who can provide services such as counseling, therapy, etc.
“In these services coping skills can be part of their therapy / services,” he said.
GDOE said they are doing their best to address student mental health issues, but it has been difficult when students are at home and GDOE must follow public health guidelines to keep students and their students safe. families as well as staff.
“The inability to see our students in person makes it difficult to assess and determine the potential need for mental health services and supports,” Fernandez said.
Now that students are back to school, the GDOE official said school administrators or school counselors are better able to identify and then help students deal with grief, anxiety, stress, drug addiction and depression.
GDOE encourages any student needing assistance to contact their teachers, counselors and school administrators.
“The school knows what appropriate action to take. In addition, school staff have been trained to identify students who need additional behavioral health support, even if they are not looking for support. main, ”Fernandez said.
Ahn said she would like the GDOE to focus on promoting peer counseling sessions and youth-led organizations, while emphasizing existing professional support services within schools.
The YAC, which gives the governor the voice of youth on issues, lobbied for mental and social health programs and created a committee focused on youth mental health.
“I hope my work on the YAC Youth Mental Health Committee will result in accessible programs to empower our youth to manage their mental health. Stress won’t suddenly go away once we become adults, so it is important that we learn valuable coping skills now that will continue to be useful well into our teens, ”said Budasi.
Being heard is a breath of fresh air for teens.
“Our voices are finally being heard, and our volume will only intensify over the years. I am so happy that our Island leaders are listening to our voices. It is important that we address the critical issues of young people now so that they do not ‘t gets out of hand later, “said Budasi.” Since we were younger, it’s easier for adults to downplay our problems. We still haven’t experienced the’ real world ‘, so a lot of adults think our problems are not as pressing or not real at all, however, this (mindset) is changing.