It’s still impossible to tell the extent of the damage caused by the pandemic. However, over a year of lockdown, communication solely through screens and the suspension of school activities have undoubtedly impacted the lives of young people around the globe. Therefore, the demands of school counselors have changed to encompass crisis and trauma counseling specific to the post-COVID world.
“Due to social isolation and adverse childhood experiences, there are concerns of suicidality, technology addiction, and school safety as schools attempt to transition to a state of normalcy in the months to come,” points out author Robert Pincus in his study about COVID-19’s Effects on Students. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as the conditions through which each student endured the pandemic vary greatly from household to household. Students coming from low-income families, for example, may not have had access to the same technology and materials as more affluent ones, causing a widening in the learning gap, which will have to be addressed as fast as possible by educators and administrators alike.
For younger children, the pandemic has had significant social impacts, as human contact outside of the family nucleus is essential for developing children’s cognitive skills. Re-integrating pupils with one another will be a challenge for the coming school year. “Mental health” has become more than just a buzzword, and as leaders rebuild the pillars of our economy, educators must also take this topic seriously.
The uncertainty surrounding student issues makes it difficult for those working in education to prepare. Arkansas State University offers a Master of Science in Education (MSE) program in school counseling with a concentration in crisis and trauma. The degree is entirely online and ideal for working professionals. The focus of the concentration is aiding students in distress, and throughout the coursework, students will understand how trauma-inducing effects can profoundly impact children and adolescents’ cognitive and emotive development.
Of course, COVID-19 is not the only factor to consider when dealing with delicate situations. Trauma comes from many different experiences and can vary greatly depending on one’s socioeconomic background, age, race, gender and sexuality. As shown in a 2015 study from the National Association of School Psychologists, “The most common traumas experienced by children and their prevalence are: physical abuse (28%), reside in households with substance abuse (27%), emotional neglect (25%), parental separation or divorce (24%), sexual abuse (21%), family member with mental illness (20%), and witness of domestic violence (13%).” Because most of these involve family life, the risk for children suffering traumatic life events has increased during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.
Therefore, school counselors must have training in crisis planning and practice ethical, cultural sensitivity. With classes geared towards both public and private education, A-State students analyze the factors leading to traumatic situations and learn the fundamentals of creating a crisis intervention plan, with consideration to multicultural differences. As a result, graduates leave the program with real-world knowledge that will prepare them for all situations, both big and small.