I woke up this morning excited. Yippee, TGIS – a fresh new day and a weekend one to boot. No appointments, no place I absolutely have to be. Just a wide-open, fresh, clean slate. Cool.
But then, I turned on a television news program. And the day took an immediate turn for the worse.
Listening to the news commentators talk about our upcoming presidential election, within minutes the adrenalin level in my body was high enough to set aside the coffee I had poured. All I could think was, “No wonder my therapy clients are struggling so with anxiety and depression.”
I went to graduate school to become a clinical social worker because I want to make a difference. To offer a place for clients to come to process challenges, stressors, fears and doubts. To help them turn around their worries and doubts through cognitive behavioral therapy and other modalities. I feel privileged to be able to do that, but right now, with so many people struggling with a sense of Covid 19 disconnection and confusion, the heaviness they bring in to the office sometimes weighs heavy on my heart.
Yesterday, my client load was full with community members of varying ages. Some were young adults needing to discuss how they are grappling with anxiety and depression. One was a teacher trying to make sense of life in her formerly beloved and now live/virtual blended classroom. She expressed that “too many parents are not paying attention to what is really going on with their children (students) right now.” The teacher and I spoke about the local school where she is employed. A large percent of her students are failing, a few with grades far below fifty. Many are not handing in assignments from home. Student accountability is at an all-time low and there seems nothing she can do about it.
Although parents have access to their child’s grades via the internet, it seems clear that many are not looking at them. If they are, they are not addressing what they see. The teacher shared that she and her colleagues have exchanged stories of their current teaching experiences with blended virtual and live classrooms. Some have learned that students are home alone and left to educate themselves (and sometimes younger siblings too) virtually. This takes the idea of latch key kids to a whole new level. Teaching staff has learned that many zoom/google classroom students, when they opt to go “off camera,” are actually opting “off from school” though their ability to prove this is challenging with everything else going on around them.
The levels of anxiety and depression in therapy clients, especially young adults, is staggering. Our future generation does not have ample physical or emotional outlets right now. They lack much needed socialization and in turn, are not garnering essential life skills, skills such as emotional self-regulation, the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings, negotiation strategies, the importance of sharing and healthy competition. Kids seem only able to unwind through video games, but these bring up entirely different challenges as kids are sometimes connecting with strangers during game time and are often exposed to violence, age-inappropriate content and even angry background music. And all too often, when kids are gaming, it is under the guise that they are doing homework.
Because peer to peer interaction is not happening, there is a severe lack of connection and more and more youngsters are turning to drugs dispensed through “carts” and pens. These drugs are provided by known drug dealing students and sometimes the buyers get a lot more than they bargained for. When I explained “half-life” and the way drugs stay in your system (in particular THC) to a client the other day, she was wide eyed and afraid. I hope she stays that way and opts out of trying marijuana heavily laced with it again as a source of entertainment to help her with her boredom and depression.
Although societally we seem invested in finding where to lay absolute blame for our dramatic challenges these days, the challenges of Covid 19 and accommodating both live and virtual education, there is nowhere to put absolute blame for what is happening, at least not in my opinion. However, there is a fervent need for solution and I really wish that more of us would focus on that going forward.
“What do we do? Where do we start? Who do we get to listen? To listen to what is really going on and not just what is being expressed publicly?” And all the while on the news, as I saw this morning, I see promise after promise about the future from candidates running for office. I say, “Forget about funding election commercials filled with promises meant for later. Put that wasted money towards figuring out a way to get our nation’s schools back on track now.”
Problems within our schools, substance and alcohol issues and youngsters disconnection, none which discriminate by the way by gender, race, ethnicity or religion, did not start with the introduction of Covid 19, though the virus has certainly severely exacerbated things. Though administration may want to deny it, long before any virus fallout, young clients say that they knew whose water bottle had water and whose had vodka in their class, this in middle school. I remember being shocked, but then again, not too shocked. Title one schools show high grades, but as someone who has interacted with local children as a coach for some years, I can attest that many of our passing students have not been promoted ready for their next grade for quite some time. Administration’s investment in reporting high grades has sometimes gotten in the way of children’s actual learning. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, touting high success numbers is still critical for school administration, but that is coming at a cost.
And so, it won’t much matter which person is elected next week for President of the United States if this goes on. The future of America depends on our children. Please pay attention folks. Maybe there are one or two children in your immediate vicinity you can hello. Heck, maybe those children are even in your own home.