By Amelia Marceau - July 2, 2020
School’s have come to provide a lot of services for students that they depend on. Teachers, school nurses, councelors, and administrators are constantly looking out for the well-being of their students. Whether they're helping with school work, college admissions, or simply providing free breakfast and lunch on a daily basis, kids rely on school staff to help. A school wellness director's role is to handle all things related to student well-being, which has become even more important during today's current climate.
The focus of student well-being has shifted in the past few years from just physical health to include mental well-being. Since COVID-19, schools across the country have closed their doors and sent children home to keep their students and staff safe. However, school closures have ushered in several different dangers.
School counselors, psychologists and social workers have been trying to work with students remotely since the necessary in-person support has been impossible to deliver due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers and school staff have continued to communicate with students as best they can with remote and digital learning tools. Unfortunately, it has become apparent that when schools reopen and revert back to some kind of normalcy, they may need to be prepared to support students who have been suffering during the pandemic.
A recent survey by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California found that more than half of the students who responded said they’re in need of mental health support. In the survey, 22% of students reported they were receiving mental health services before the pandemic. Since school closures in March, 32% of students who were not previously receiving services now say they may need services. As schools prepare to reopen in the fall, it is clear that there needs to be more focus on student well-being post-pandemic.
A school wellness director is often responsible for developing and overseeing wellness programs and initiatives at a school. They create and implement a comprehensive health and wellness curriculum which covers healthy lifestyle, the importance of physical education, growth and development, and more. A wellness director covers it all for K-12 students.
Most school wellness directors are required to have some familiarity with educational and experiential programs, communication with parents, adolescents, a community of stakeholders, and a knowledge of crisis response. In the case of a traumatic or major community event, such as a death of a student or a school shooting, school wellness directors are responsible to managing students impacted by this trauma and taking care of their well-being physically and mentally.
By working with school nurses, counselors, health and physical education teachers and administrators, a wellness director outlines a plan for the school that benefits the students' well-being holistically. A wellness director is not only responsible for the physical health of students, but also their mental health.
According to the CDC, depression and anxiety in children aged 3-17 has been on the rise. ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children with nearly 16.9 million children aged 3-17 being diagnosed with one of the above mental illnesses.
Oftentimes, students are not taught how to properly manage their stress and anxiety while at school. As students get older, there is more pressure to receive good grades and participate in extracurricular activities. Simple skills like time management and organization can go a long way to improving students’ well-being. A school wellness director works with students to manage their mental health, and support them through tough times, such as today's pandemic.
Wellness days or weeks have gained popularity in many schools across the U.S. By taking a break from a normal school day, wellness directors often lead students through mediation, organizational skills, zen-art and more. Wellness days have started to focus more on mental health education.
A school wellness director speaks to students and teaches them about key mental health signs for anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other mental illnesses school-aged children may be suffering from. By spreading awareness to students and teachers, more people are familiar with the signs of someone that might be suffering. Teachers can use this knowledge to help spot concerning signs in students, and notify others to get the help they need.
A wellness director is also responsible for promoting ways students can live a healthy lifestyle. This includes encouraging students to make meaningful connections and take part in extra-curricular activities that can do just that.
Now, more than ever, school wellness directors are needed. As students plan to return to school, they will need time to readjust to a full academic schedule. Between learning loss and re-organization, students will be under more stress than before.
A school wellness director could help students with the transition back to school. They could also help implement COVID-19 precautions throughout the school. Students of all ages are going to need time and patience as they become accustomed to the new normal at school. The more support students have from a wellness director, teachers and staff, the safer they feel.
Amelia is a marketing intern at Rave. She loves to write about anything safety related. When she’s away from the keyboard, you’ll either find her playing with her dog, ice skating, or competing in a triathlon. Amelia attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Political Science and Journalism.
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