There’s no question the pandemic took an incredible toll on K–12 students. They endured social isolation, an abrupt shift to remote learning and disrupted routines. Combined, these factors contribute to an alarming rise in mental health conditions, most notably a surge in anxiety and depression. In fact, two-thirds of parents polled by UNICEF Canada in 2021 reported their child’s mental health had worsened during the pandemic, with nearly half saying their children were experiencing new mental health challenges since the onset.
Students’ families, of course, have a significant stake in addressing this growing concern. But, educators and schools also play a critical role in addressing it by prioritising mental health support and identifying appropriate interventions to ensure the wellbeing and success of their students. Read on for some ways your school can help students cope, especially as summer approaches.
As an OTR (registered occupational therapist) and Director of Portfolio Management and Delivery at Pearson Clinical Assessment, I have extensive experience working with students who have been diagnosed with a variety of conditions. And, as a mom of an autistic daughter, I understand on a personal level how challenging it can be to get the diagnosis that’s needed — and why it’s imperative that schools join caregivers in their quest for answers.
Mental health concerns are not a new topic by any stretch of the imagination, but what is new is the validation and support that has been desperately needed by so many... for so long. Throughout history, people with mental illness have been ostracized, lobotomized, institutionalized, and demonized, but as our understanding of many of these common conditions has grown, so has our capacity for compassion and treatment.
If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that we are all facing private battles, often waged internally. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental health condition in any given year. While many feel comfortable talking about mental health, others are still lacking the support to find the resources they need.
Culturally, there is still a wide range of thinking when it comes to conditions such as depression and anxiety. While some communities still prefer to encourage their members to internalize their struggles or share them only with leaders, many others have adopted a broader mindset on mental health resources by setting up support groups and treatment centres and speaking openly on topics that were once considered “sensitive”. This mindset shift has led to a more global normalization of mental health concerns — and not a minute too soon.
Here are a few ways you can reduce stigma and bring more awareness to mental health concerns in your community.
Speak openly about mental health. Stigma is rooted in ignorance, so educating yourself and those around you helps counteract lingering negativity. If you feel comfortable speaking about your own mental health with a trusted person in your life, it may help that person feel safe to do the same.
Utilize local support groups. Open dialogue often leads to discovery, so having available resources at the ready could be a game-changer for the next person you talk to!
Share relevant articles. Social media’s influence stretches way past the bounds of what we’re eating for dinner, so if you find an article with a positive spin on mental health, share, share, share!
Reach out to the experts. If you're looking for someone to talk to about your mental health, we’ve gathered some additional mental health resources to help you find support and information.
The last few weeks of the calendar year are the home stretch for many educators to a much-deserved break and time with friends and family. But there’s no denying the winter holidays can also be challenging for many reasons — not the least of which is how easy it is to become overwhelmed with the extra seasonal activities and responsibilities crowding educators’ plates.
Jeremy, the newest addition to our Canadian Customer Experience team, began his career at Pearson completely by chance. After taking a leap of faith and following a former coworker’s advice to apply, he landed in Customer Care and found his “calling”. We sat down with Jeremy to learn more about his personal views on what each customer’s experience should be, how he brings that vision to life, and what brings him joy in his free time.
Came to Pearson by chance
Initially, it was completely by chance. My supervisor at my previous full-time call centre job was hired at Pearson. He was excited about his new role and what Pearson stood for, so I decided to take a leap of faith. I applied for a temporary position in Customer Service within the K–12 group and was hired on the spot! I felt strongly that I’d found something special. I believed in the value of what we had to offer our customers and was confident that I could help make a difference in efficiency. After a month, I knew it was a good fit for me. I’m able to use a creative element of my personality that most customer care teams may not provide the possibility for; traits that help the business and our customers grow.
I joined the K–12 team in 2016 as a temporary employee and was later integrated into the Clinical Customer Support team as a full-time employee. I was with Pearson until 2020 and was delighted to be contacted about rejoining the team in 2021. I was excited to have the ability to use my customer-focused approach, my knowledge of the products, and my technical support abilities to give each person the best possible experience.
Setting Pearson's Customer support apart
When a customer wants product info or has a question or concern, I try to go one or two steps beyond what they’ve asked for. I want to be the last point of contact that acts on getting their request or issue handled.
Here’s a specific story: I had a customer who had a Q-interactive account and needed all their licenses to start on the same day. The customer required assistance and had been communicating with a few different departments before they got to me. My initial message to them was, “Don’t worry, I’ve GOT this. Here’s our plan as to how I’m going to resolve this. Please know I will see this through!” I think it’s important to validate customers’ feelings about their experience and let them know you’re going to get any issues resolved.
What does success look like for you?
To me, success in my role looks like customer gratitude; if they’re happy to know I’m handling their call, I feel successful. I ask myself “Did I provide everything the customer needed? Did I offer everything I could?” I love it when I can share information that is helpful to them, especially when they’re clear on what was conveyed.
What have you learned through this role/experience so far?
I’ve learned that not everything is simple, but when things seem complicated initially, taking it one step at a time will lead to success (or in this case, a happy customer).
Is there something that you’d say to all customers if given the opportunity?
Don’t let an issue overwhelm you; it's not as complicated as it seems. We are here to help.
What can you tell us about your life outside of Pearson?
I'm from Hemphill, a small town in east Texas. My brother and I were basically raised by my paternal grandparents who instilled wisdom and guidance in us as if we were their own. In high school, I worked at a local grocery store in most any position I could get my hands on. It was there I learned that I don't sit still for too long as I get curious and seek to try and learn everything at least once. I have maintained that same ambition with every job I've ever taken on. I currently live in San Antonio and love it here—with wonderful lifelong friends, including my partner who is just as ambitious as I am when it comes to our passions.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I spend a lot of time with my family, my partner, my friends, and my four cats — three of whom are rescues. I go to at least one Renaissance festival every year and make my own costumes. I even crafted a wizard staff out of a curtain rod, a leather strap, a candle holder, a quartz ball, and an LED light! I’m a BIG video gamer when I’m not out gardening or enjoying all the different foods this world has to offer.
Quotes from Jeremy:
“Each customer’s experience should be an enjoyable one. I always want my customers to feel familiar with me; like they’re calling a friend to see how they’re doing.”
How many times have you gotten into your car after a particularly challenging day, turned on the radio, and suddenly felt your mood improving? Believe it or not, there’s actual science behind this phenomenon. Music’s rhythm and repetition engage the neocortex of your brain, and research supports the use of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and anxiety. Creating a “rainy-day” playlist can be a lot of fun and might just save the day tomorrow! Here are a few of our favorites...
Five foot-tapping fan favorites
I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff — This transcendent, joy-inspiring song perfectly encapsulates the jubilance that comes from a bad day that’s suddenly turned itself around. Look straight ahead; there’s nothing but blue skies!
I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown — From the iconic “Whoa!” that sets the tone for James’ buoyant lyrics, this ultimate “feel good” song will have you singing along in no time (and you knew that it would now).
Happy by Pharrell Williams — Seems as if Pharrell knows a thing or two about turning lemons into lemonade when he sings, “Well give me all you’ve got, don't hold back. Well, I should probably warn you — I'll be just fine.” Clap along if you know what happiness is to you!
Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John — Sometimes we just need to feel accepted, imperfections and all. Young Folks tells the tale of two friends who turn a blind eye to one another’s pasts and choose to live in the moment. If the whistling doesn’t turn your frown upside down, the message certainly will!
What a Feeling by Irene Cara — If you grew up in the 80’s, three things are true: You used waaaaay too much hairspray (yes... you did), you got up early every Saturday to watch cartoons, and you kicked and stomped your way through this song like a champ. Your hairstyle may have (drastically) changed and cartoons are now available on-demand, but this song will ALWAYS inspire you to dance right through your life.
You may be feeling the added pressure at work these days, and most days it probably feels like everyone wants some of your time. Here are a few easy tips for maintaining your positive attitude and protecting your headspace in your professional life. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Set manageable boundaries. Blocking your calendar for lunch or focus time and not responding to emails after hours are great ways to protect your “downtime”. Last-minute meetings, impossible deadlines, and covering staffing shortages are all common occurrences in today’s world but reducing as many of them as you can and setting clear boundaries for your valuable time can help give you some sense of control over your day.
Take regular “brain breaks”. While our smartphones are often dubbed “tools of mass distraction”, they can be an invaluable means of temporary escape. Taking short, regular breaks can help reset your brain, increasing your overall productivity. Download a few quick games that interest you or keep a light read loaded on an e-reader app and allow yourself a few minutes to decompress when the opportunity strikes.
Tackle one thing at a time. If your to-do list should be relabeled as a “must-do-NOW" list, remember that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Prioritizing your tasks, writing them down, and crossing them off in order of importance can give you some sense of control over your day and keep you focused.
Help your neighbor. While this advice may seem counterintuitive to #1, taking some time to voluntarily help a coworker — instead of being “voluntold” to do so — feels good! If you see someone struggling under the weight of their obligations, ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. Even if you simply shine a little light on a task that seems overwhelming to them, the resulting sense of community will brighten the day for both of you!
Keep your visual spaces clear. Much like the chair full of clean laundry mocking us from the corner of our bedroom, we’ve all got “that pile” of paperwork on our desk that’s begging to be dealt with. Just looking at it probably makes you stressed! Schedule 15 to 30 minutes every day to tackle that pesky pile, and (if possible) keep it out of sight.
If you find these tips to be helpful, check out our previous Five tips for improving your mental health post!