Mental Health: A Priority Issue
One of the most important elements of formal education from a development standpoint is the opportunity to socialize in a friendly and open environment. For many school-aged children, the schoolyard is their main source of building relationships with peers. Group projects. Middle-school plays. Lunchtime in the cafeteria.
And yet, as with many of our day-to-day routines, the pandemic has altered the structure through which children get to see and interact with one another. This year, to mark National School Safety Week, the Canada Safety Council is calling attention to the mental health crisis that looms because of fewer opportunities to socialize.
It’s through these moments of interaction with classmates and friends that students learn to trust, cooperate with, and support one another. But with the pandemic still casting its shadow over our lives, these students have faced school closures, re-openings, distance learning, more isolation in the classroom, and an increased reliance on social media to communicate — whether that’s by actively participating in conversations or passively consuming content and merely being aware of their friends’ lives.
“Isolation and a lack of safe social connections are issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council. “Between the importance of these issues and a growing recognition that social media channels often exist to promote engagement over mental health, it’s all the more important that we check in with children more frequently and help them to connect with friends and the people most important to them.”
School-aged children, much like the population at large, must stay connected with the world around them. Especially at such a seminal age, it’s vital that these social skills continue to be developed. That’s why, even when it’s not in a student’s nature to reach out to a friend and converse, we must encourage them to do so.
Children need safe and supportive figures in their lives. Even though children are extremely resilient, it’s easy to forget at times that there are limits to that resiliency. Encourage your children to reach out to friends, have conversations and share experiences in limited-risk environments while still safely distancing and, where appropriate, wearing masks. Even conversations held over text or on the phone can be more effective at maintaining one’s mental wellbeing than scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.
Loneliness is but a short step away from isolation and it can bring about a whole host of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Stress about not feeling connected and being socially isolated can lead to mood swings, extreme variations in sleep patterns and more.
As adults, staying connected with children and maintain an open channel of communication can make all the difference. While social restrictions are now lifting, we are not yet through the pandemic. At this time, it is important to help each other where we can. When it comes to children, let’s remain connected, understanding, and supportive.
– 30 –
For more information, please contact:
Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council