Supporting Students’ Mental and Emotional Health

Stock photo of a woman comforting a young child.

Mental and emotional health is an important issue that needs to be addressed at all levels. When it comes to education, there can be spaces left open in supporting mental and emotional health that lead to students falling through the cracks. This is something YouthQuest is working diligently to avoid.

“We want to ensure that our students feel emotionally supported during program even if they can’t find that support at home or in day school,” says Dr. Kimberly Leverette, executive director at Flint & Genesee Education & Talent. “It is our responsibility to provide a safe space for them along with teaching techniques that allow students to process their emotions in a healthy and productive way.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, a reported 36.7 percent of students in 2019 experienced persistent sadness or hopelessness – a 40 percent increase from 2009. Poor mental health can affect students in many aspects of their lives. They might struggle with school and grades, decision making and even their health.

Luckily, there are ways to help students who may be struggling, and this work can be done in part by YouthQuest staff, who participate in professional development workshops every other month.

Some of the topics covered have included social and emotional learning (SEL), which according to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

With training in SEL, YouthQuest staff are better equipped to implement embedded SEL techniques into programming to ensure students are able to manage emotions, practice empathy, maintain supportive relationships and more.

Another way YouthQuest helps support mental and emotional health is through collaborating with Crim Fitness Foundation through the Flint Community Education Initiative to provide activities that help teach students how to be mindful.

According to a 2015 study conducted by Dr. Karin Pfeiffer of Michigan State University to evaluate the Crim Mindfulness Initiative, “73 percent of students felt mindfulness helped them focus and make better decisions” and “61 percent of students shared that mindfulness helped them avoid fights.” This shows the benefit of practicing mindfulness with students.

With these practices in place, YouthQuest is working to help students’ mental and emotional health, however, identifying issues students may face can start at home. According to the Mayo Clinic, warning signs of mental health in children include persistent sadness, outbursts or extreme irritability, changes in eating habits and difficulty sleeping. If your student is facing any of these issues, talk to your child’s doctor about seeking help.

YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.