Arizona school counselors ask for help as COVID-19 puts more stress on students

Mental health polices for schools

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The pandemic has taken a toll on many, in more ways than one. Mental health for students has taken a downward turn during this time of virtual learning, and school counselors are asking for help to keep their students afloat.

“School has been a very consistent thing for students, and now it’s different, and that’s hard,” said Britney Griffith, with the Arizona School Counselor Association and a Tucson school counselor.

She said her students have been more stressed, anxious and depressed during the pandemic. Asking her students what struggles they are going through yields a much different answer this year than other years.

“Usually, I get things like finishing my homework, fighting with my brother, who gets to be IT in tag- stereotypical kid problems. But this year, my students reported being worried that they’re going to get sick, worried about their mom who is a healthcare worker and what she’s facing at work, worried they’re going to lose their house or apartment because their parents can’t afford to pay for it,” said Griffith. “It’s been just a really different year for them.”

The Arizona School Counselor Association is urging our state leaders and legislators to prioritize mental health for students with new laws and budgets.

“Some of our rural communities do not have school counselors, school social workers,” she said.

State Superintendent, Kathy Hoffman, advocated for the same during her State of Special Education speech, saying COVID-19 has impacted classrooms, families and teachers enormously.

In 2019, according to the CDC, 40% of Arizona students reported feeling sad or hopeless; and 20% reported considering suicide.

“The more support systems that our state can provide our families, the more we support our schools and the students they serve,” said Hoffman.

The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor per 250 students. In 2019, Arizona, according to the association, had 905 students per counselor- the worst in the nation.

Griffith said this puts students in a hard spot now, when they need help the most. Hoffman is calling for $4 million dollars just to cover the waiting list for additional counselors in schools across the state.

“We know this pandemic is very taxing on everyone and our students are experiencing anxiety and isolation and the same pressures that adults are.”

SB1376 is currently making its way through our state legislature. It would ensure mental health education is in state schools.

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