ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns suicide and drug overdoses have claimed more young lives during the pandemic than COVID-19.
With Arkansas schools starting in less than a week, counselors fear for the mental health of not only the students but also the teachers.
COVID-19 has put the country in a state of chronic stress and adding the unknowns of the upcoming school year, teachers say the weight of the world is on their shoulders, as they navigate their emotions to meet the needs of their students.
I would advise communities to be supportive of your schools, because ultimately who that benefits are the very kids that we are all talking about.STACY RICHEY, ROGERS HERITAGE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
Stacy Richey is a teacher at Rogers Heritage High School.
“This year is going to require some grace,” she said. “For all of us, I think we are going to have to learn how to manage our stress.”
In less than a week, she will be teaching more than twenty students the fundamentals of English, and how to speak up when things aren’t okay.
“Building a community in a classroom is going to vital this year,” she said. “I feel like students really need to feel that’s a safe place for them.”
Suicides have spiked amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially among young people, according to the CDC.
Corretta Woodard, a local licensed professional counselor, said it’s more important than ever, teachers like Richey, take care of themselves as we head into the new school year.
It’s a season right now where we have to offer grace to ourselves before we can offer it to others.CORRETTA WOODARD, LICENSED PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR
With all the unknowns, Woodard wants to remind us the significance of leaning on one another — because it’s one of the main things that can help.
“Maybe it would be good to have a therapist so you can have that safe space to say the hard things,” Woodard said. “It gives you that freedom and that liberty to kind of release that.”
Richey said she wants teachers to know that it’s okay to ask for help.
Reach out to people for support, don’t try and do everything by yourself this year. It’s going to be a challenge with added responsibilities.STACY RICHEY, ROGERS HERITAGE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER
As for students, she wants them to come back with positive attitudes and know it’s okay if there’s a struggle in remembering and learning new things.
“We’ve had some trauma, so we’ve probably experienced a little regress,” Richey said. “Don’t let that be a setback, use that to catapult yourself into a new situation, a new opportunity.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).