Arizona students, teachers plead for more mental health resources on campus

It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on students and teachers as they've had to pivot to online learning, then head back into classrooms a year later.

Now, time is showing us that the mental health of this group is also declining as they try to keep up.

A number of students and teachers around the Valley voiced their concerns on April 19, and one message was clear, they are all struggling.

School counselors' offices are full and now teachers and students are working to step in as counselors themselves although they aren’t trained for that kind of interaction.

They say something needs to be done.

"I am in correspondence through email, Webex, talking students through emotional meltdowns every week. It is hard to witness that as an educator," says teacher Elise Villescaz.

Her students are struggling as they try and keep up with online learning without the emotional connection.

High school students in Gilbert and Phoenix are echoing those emotions.

"You can FaceTime and hop on Zoom calls, but it is not the same. You can't reach people on the same level,"  says Dylan Lifshitz, senior at Sunnyslope High School.

Eman Massoud, a student at Gilbert Classical Academy, feels the same, saying, "I was struggling. I needed that student to teacher connection."

Adrianna Parrino, a student at Arete Preparatory Academy, is seeing an increase in her classmate's struggling and requesting help from school counselors.

"Everyone’s mental health suffering. You have to wait a week to two weeks in advance to talk to someone about mental health. It is concerning," she says.

As a result, she as a peer is stepping in to help, and so are the teachers.

"I have personally had to speak to students about food insecurity, homelessness and parents losing jobs and parents hospitalized due to COVID," says Jessica Green, a high school science teacher.

She adds, "I am not trained as a counselor to coach you through this."

Students and teachers say now that the entire education has been shifted, accommodations need to be made in terms of mental health. Otherwise, there could be another crisis in our schools.

For information on mental health resources in Arizona, visit http://www.namiarizona.org/

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