Returning to In-Person Learning Presents New Challenges in Schools

Apr 8, 2021

child with a mask onOver the past couple of months, many Minnesota schools have returned to full-time, in-person learning. For the People Incorporated therapists and social workers working alongside teachers and staff in 25 area schools in four school districts, this shift in learning has also signaled a significant change in the mental health needs of their students.

People Incorporated’s School-Linked Mental Health Services team is seeing both an increase in the students’ need for services, as well as an increase in the severity of symptoms.

“Kids are stressed. They’ve seen frequent transitions – something that is already difficult for many children – over the past year. They also pick up on the stressors of the world. They’re hearing more news. They see when their parents are stressed about furloughs or layoffs. The events that unfolded in Minneapolis over the summer, the trial, and increased conversations about race and diversity are also top of mind for many of the children we’re seeing now,” says Sara Benson, manager and licensed clinical social worker for People Incorporated’s School-Linked programs.
“In addition, kids are facing a lot of their own stressors and anxieties. The academic expectations of in-person learning feel different, and they have to get used to that again. They’re also facing stresses of navigating peer relationships.”

Therapists are also feeling the pressure for time. Between increasing capacity for new and existing clients, and receiving an onslaught of new referrals – many delayed by COVID — therapists are feeling their own pressures as they try to prepare for the summer transitions that help to maintain access to mental health care for kids over the summer months.

“A lot of evaluations are taking place right now, and we’re seeing kids with more severe symptoms. I think this is only the beginning – as kids begin to open up, we’re going to understand a lot more about the trauma they’ve experienced,” says Sara. “We’re also waiting for schools to make decisions on what summer school will look like, so we can make plans for each person in our care – whether they continue therapy at their school during summer session, virtually, or in one of our mental health clinics. The continuity of care is critical.”

In addition to providing direct service to children, People Incorporated’s team is also working closely with teachers and other school staff to provide other supports to help children thrive. From educational newsletters, vignettes to understand a difficult topic emerging in classrooms, drop-in hours to discuss strategies for managing mental health in the classroom, and collaborative appointments with parents and teaching teams, the school-linked team is a critical component of classroom success.

Your support of People Incorporated’s programming for children and their families helps us to ensure that children in your community have accessible, compassionate care in places that work best for their families – in their schools, virtually, and in our clinics.

Learn more about our School-Linked care and read their latest newsletters.