HISD Offers Mental Health Hotline and Resources, But Students Are Reluctant to Access Resources

The+number+of+mental+issues+is+growing+among+students+in+isolation+during+the+pandemic.+

Source: New Scientist

The number of mental issues is growing among students in isolation during the pandemic.

Back in May, HISD launched its “Let’s Stay Connected” Mental Health Hotline at 713-556-1340 that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s no surprise that mental health issues has risen among teenagers during the pandemic, but HISD’s mental health resources have been largely not accessed by CVHS students either because of the stigma around seeking institutional mental health supports or because students have been aware of these resources. 

“I wouldn’t go to an HISD counselor because I would be too scared to talk to someone I don’t know that much about my problems, I’ll most likely talk to a friend,” said CVHS freshman Stephanie. 

Much of the mental stress among the students Upstream interviewed started at the sudden onset of the pandemic, which disrupted the daily routine of students. 
 
“When COVID first started to spread and schools had to be shut down, I felt scared. It was all really fast since not a lot of people thought it would spread so much, and then schools were closed” said Stephanie. 
 
When schools closed, students started finding their social supports narrowing and along with that, their mental health. 
 
I did have a lot of mental meltdowns because I missed all of my friends and I thought I lost someone close but we started talking like a few weeks back and I’m really glad that everything is good between us,” said Stephanie. 
 
Even though there is a need for more research on the effects the pandemic has had on the mental health of adolescents, in one study out of China, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers in Hubei province, where the pandemic originated, examined a sample group of 2,330 schoolchildren for signs of emotional distress. After being locked down for a month, 22.6% of them reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% were experiencing anxiety. In another study published by Health Economics, researchers found that a 5 percent increase in the unemployment rate during the Great Recession correlated with a 35 to 50 percent increase in mental health problems among children. 

The Center for Disease Control has noted that the pandemic contributed to five main challenges leading to mental health issues among children: 

  • Changes in their routines (e.g., having to physically distance from family, friends, worship community)
  • Breaks in continuity of learning (e.g., virtual learning environments, technology access and connectivity issues)
  • Breaks in continuity of health care (e.g., missed well-child and immunization visits, limited access to mental, speech, and occupational health services)
  • Missed significant life events (e.g., grief of missing celebrations, vacation plans, and/or milestone life events)
  • Lost security and safety (e.g., housing and food insecurity, increased exposure to violence and online harms, threat of physical illness and uncertainty for the future)
“Ever since schools closed I became very introverted. I talk to a small amount if people, don’t like to go outside, and teenagers just scare me in general,” said CVHS freshman Genesis. 
“The time I spent in quarantine did affect how active I was and I gained weight and started to eat a bunch of food and like now I’m trying lose it so yeah, I was active in the beginning but then everything changed. I learned that I’m not energetic when I’m not with people and I am basically the opposite of what I used to be back then,” said Stephanie. 

This past year, CVHS hired a dedicated student support manager to help guide students with mental health concerns. Ms. Elizabeth Reed, LMSW, works with Communities in Schools, which besides providing mental health guidance to students, also provide the following services. Ms. Reed can be reached at: [email protected]

  • Supportive guidance and counseling, 
  • Academic support, 
  • Health and human services referrals,
  • College and career readiness support, 
  • Parental and family involvement, and/or
  • Enrichment activities

In a recent presentation to students, Ms. Reed shared the following strategies to improve mood throughout the day.