- Prioritize building trust between new teachers and/or counselors and their students, especially at the start of a new school year. Suggestions for how to facilitate trust-building online included:
- One-on-one meetings between teacher and/or counselor and each student to get to know each other with sufficient time to dive into deeper issues
- Encourage teachers to organize study groups for their students where they make themselves available to pop in and assist with assignments
- Create a “Wellness Wednesday” class that is mandatory where health teachers speak on the topic of wellness or facilitate a conversation with the students regarding their emotional well-being
- Create space at the beginning of regular class and/or study group interactions to ask students how they’re doing or feeling
- Utilize innovations, such as the free CloseGap software, to regularly check-in on student well-being. It’s important that these check ins come from a trusted teacher or school counselor rather than from administration, which may not have achieved the same level of rapport as a teacher.
- Consider that not all students are comfortable turning on their webcams because they may not want teachers/peers to see the space where they live and be open to audio-only check ins. Training on how to pick up on cues without being able to read body language or gauge appearance is important for teachers and/or counselors that are operating in a virtual environment where their students may not feel comfortable using their webcams.
- Connect students directly to relevant mental health/wellness resources and don’t assume that students—or even the staff at the schools they attend—are aware of the available virtual resources for supporting their mental health and wellbeing.
In summary, intentionality around scheduling time for teachers and school counselors to engage with their students is crucial in building the trust required for students to ask for help when they need it. As MCH professionals, one step we can take to assist these efforts is to ensure that our partners in the local school systems are aware of relevant mental health resources and services so that our partners in education can share them with students during their trust-building events. As the technical assistance and training center with a focus on advancing research, training, policy, and practice in school mental health, The National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH) has a treasure trove of resources, including:
- Advancing Comprehensive School Mental Health Systems: Guidance from the Field, “offers collective insight and guidance to local communities and states to advance comprehensive school mental health systems“
- NCSMH’s COVID-19 resource page, which includes resources organized as they relate to: 1) School Staff & Administrators, 2) Wellness & Mental Health, 3) Technology to Support Mental Health
- NCSMH’s Cultural Responsiveness & Equity resource page, which includes “resources for schools, mental health providers, communities, families, and students on cultural responsiveness and equity in school mental health”