As we begin this school year, it is good to consider the state of students' emotional wellbeing and ways in which we can meet them where they are. Data make clear that students are struggling. There are a number of contextual pressures that may add to students' well-being and thus, their ability to function in the classroom, whether synchronous or asynchronous, virtual or in person.
The spring Healthy Minds Study, which surveys tens of thousands of students each semester about their mental well-being, found that 41 percent of students screened positive for depression and that 34 percent screened positive for anxiety. (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Many students are coming into the academic year already burned out. Ohio State University polled 1,000 of its students and found that 71 percent of them had screened positive for burnout in April 2021, compared with 40 percent in August 2020. (Chronicle of Higher Education)
What do we mean by "trauma"?
All of us—you, your colleagues, your students—are going through a traumatic event as we weather an ongoing global pandemic. But trauma isn’t about the event, it’s about the experience of and reaction to events. In other words: traumatic events don't impact people in the same ways.
By definition, individual trauma happens when something happens and is experienced “as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual wellbeing” (SAMHSA). Here’s an easy way to remember it:
Uncertainty plays a major role here. As the pandemic continues and how we do things necessarily adapts, we must remember that students are especially vulnerability to the swirl of constant change. This is compounded by the experiences students have in their personal lives, work settings, home conditions, and community contexts.