Concerns over mental health of students, families

MEDFORD, Ore. — “For children who depend on those perimeters and those structured situations, here we are in this situation when we don’t know when it’s going to end,” said Tammi Pitzen, Jackson Co. Children’s Advocacy Center.

Working from home, isolated and alone, may be a reality for some students this Fall.

Aside from making sure kids basic needs are met like food, water, and shelter, Pitzen says distance learning creates added stress for families and students.

“Parents are on overload, what am I going to do if kids don’t go back to school full-time? How am I going to be able to work and provide food if I don’t have a job that I can work from home,” she said.

For kids, Pitzen says the anxiety is much worse and can leave them searching for a support system they previously had with teachers and other students.

For families, she says it can lead to dangerous environments of both physical and, or emotional abuse.

“If kids are already in a place that they’re not safe, and then they are having to figure this other piece out… how do I feel safe? I used to at least from 8 to 4, I could be at school or at 8 to 3 I can be at school… where can I be,” she said.

Superintendent Brent Barry of the Phoenix/Talent School District says he’s well aware families were already struggling at the start of the pandemic.

“We found towards the end of our distance learning, families and parents were going back to work, so there was no supervision or support during the distance learning model,” he said.

Aside from distance learning potentially affecting a student’s academic performance, Barry says parents are put in a difficult position that they aren’t familiar with… that of a teacher and a facilitator.

And in some cases, they’re not able to provide support at all.

“If a student is not feeling emotional stable or feeling safe, no amount of academic or the best teacher in the world will not be able to provide core content to that student or family,” he said.

Both Pitzen and Barry acknowledge the best place for kids is back in the classroom.

And since that could happen less this Fall, they say access to mental health resources is a top priority.

“There’s going to be a lot of abuse that would not have happened had they not been in isolation and families were not stressed out. And some of the impacts of that is going to be unknown, but I fear that it is going to be great,” said Pitzen.

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