More virtual resources to improve the mental health of students
More virtual resources to improve the mental health of students
As Brooklyn Technical High School students, we are aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, and how this may adversely affect whether students receive adequate mental health instruction and resources in our school and throughout our city. The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly injurious to students’ mental health, which is the reason we are writing to you. We hope that the following accounts made by students show how surreal and visceral the issue of worsening of mental health during this pandemic has become. Although these words were said by just a few students, they represent what the majority of the student body has faced during this pandemic:
“My mental health got so much worse as quarantine continued. I haven't been able to socialize as much with my friends and it’s hard to be secluded instead of going out every day and having fun like we used to.”
“I don’t feel motivated to do anything anymore. I haven’t felt this empty in a long time. I always feel like I go to sleep dreading the next day, and wake up feeling miserable and unmotivated. I used to put so much effort into everything that I did, but now I just don’t care.”
“I'm feeling sad more often, not only because of the news outlets but because I'm not able to see my friends regularly. My worries about school are in the background, like I feel fine and then I get hit by a wave of stress and negative feelings.”
Despite how students have had several months to adjust to the circumstances of being in quarantine, students are still struggling with the workload from their teachers and isolation from their friends and peers. We have certainly recognized efforts by the school to improve the mental statuses of the students such as the SEL Day on April 17th. Although these events can temporarily relieve stress and anxiety for a period of time, the overwhelming stress-related circumstances persist as the school year continues. For this reason, we believe that more actions addressing the worsening of mental health in students during this pandemic should be taken.
Brooklyn Technical High School Key Club provides its members with opportunities to provide volunteer service, build character and develop leadership. As students and members of Key Club, we have devoted our time to fundraising, advocating and volunteering towards important causes in New York. For example, we have strived towards mental health awareness by holding yoga fundraisers and hosting educational workshops. It was from efforts like these that our members managed to perform roughly 15,000 hours of service and fundraise an estimated $10,000. Hence, we have done a tremendous amount of efforts in order to better the school community and theNew York community. Hopefully, our adamance in raising awareness and improving the mental health of students during this pandemic will be just as successful.
As an organization that has the voice and power to cause change, we represent the voices of the majority of students in our school. We truly believe that taking action on the subject of students’ mental health will help our school community create a safer environment more conducive to and educational success, especially since present circumstances have caused many of our advocacy efforts to be moved online We are requesting more resources that students can use to cope with the leading causes of worsening mental health during the pandemic.
In order to take action on this largely unaddressed issue, we have brought to you some ideas that could address our mental health initiative:
Host a virtual town hall - We believe that the town halls held in our school have been very effective in voicing the concerns of the student body. Hosting a virtual town hall for students to voice their position on the online academic curriculum would be a great opportunity for both teachers and staff to learn about how they could better accommodate the needs of their students. This will help us create new ways for students to manage their workload and help students engage in school activities without being overwhelmed. It will also help teachers give a workload that students can handle and also make contact with students to make sure they are not giving too much work.
New Assignment Policy
Assignment deadlines- Students have noticed the pattern of teachers assigning work due the same day that it was assigned or under tight time constraints ever since school has resumed virtually. We have also noticed that because of these assignment deadlines, sleeping habits have been worsened. It has been argued by many students that they should be given enough time to do their work while also having excess time for other academic activities like online meetings.
Attendance - We have also noticed that assignments were given for students to complete as attendance while also assigning other tasks pertinent to the lesson for that day. Different methods of collecting attendance have been utilized such as asking a question through Google Classroom, requiring a Google form to be filled out, or posting an assignment and using its completion to count as attendance. All these different forms of collecting attendance have also had a deadline at different times of the day. It would be worthwhile and useful if the school had utilized a uniform means of tracking attendance. In this way, students would worry less about attendance deadlines and more about their instructional activities.
Virtual school wide events/entertainment - As mentioned, one of the leading causes for the deterioration of students’ mental health during this pandemic is from the inability of students to interact with each other like they used to. The school has held successful events that have brought people together, including movie nights, talent shows, and musicals. It would be an amazing opportunity for students to have the ability to interact with each other through events like these virtually. Even if it were challenging to organize an online virtual event on a schoolwide level, something as simple as giving access to a movie and songs to those who aren't able to acquire entertainment would be so greatly appreciated by students.
Virtual Children’s Village - The school can invest in creating a virtual Children’s Village for those who need to talk to someone. Guidance counselors can sign up for different time slots and students can tune in at any time throughout the school hours. This will also be a way for students to interact with their guidance counselors and gain more personal relationships with them. This will allow students to trust adults that will help them with their school work and issues at home. Guidance counselors can also help students with breathing exercises to calm them down and give them tips on how to de-stress at home. Unlike the conventional email, creating a virtual safe place like the Children’s Village in school would provide instant access to a person to talk to.
Freshman Advisory Standardization - At the moment, there is no standardized curriculum for the freshman advisory course introduced in 2017 for Brooklyn Technical High School’s freshman students. Given concerns surrounding mental health as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are imploring you to work with faculty to revise and standardize the curriculum such that all students receive mandatory mental health instruction. The lack of standardization has meant that many students did not receive these key lessons, which could help to ameliorate students’ struggles with mental health as they traverse their time at our school. Additionally, allowing teachers for this course to speak more directly on the matter may bring new issues to light that can be addressed.
These are just a few of a myriad of resources that people can use in order to promote the mental health of students during this pandemic. With circumstances like the ones put on students currently, issues like the worsening of mental health can easily be overlooked. With your help and that of the school community, we believe that we can engender palpable change with regard to the virtual opportunities afforded to students during this pressing time in our country’s history.
This petition was made to not only push for a change, but to educate and inform about the realities of student mental health during a time of virtual learning. Although the 2020 school year is nearing an end, we hope that the experiences of students and recommendations provided could be used as an insight to improve not only virtual learning during the summer, but learning in a traditional setting as technology continues to become a major part of education and teaching.
The Key Club Advocacy Committee