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Commissioner calls for back-to-school kindness

24 May 2020

Queensland’s Mental Health Commissioner is urging students, parents and teachers to be kind to themselves and each other as schools resume full operations today (Monday 25 May).

Commissioner Ivan Frkovic said the full return to school followed weeks of home schooling and holidays.

“Many students and parents will be very pleased with the return to school, but some will have mixed emotions today as children head back to the classroom,” he said.

“I know that education sectors and schools have worked tirelessly to support their communities with the return to classrooms.

“It’s important that students, their families and educators are kind to themselves and each other and watch for signs of distress both now and as the term progresses.”

“The whole community has been through a stressful period since the COVID-19 lockdown took effect, and some of our school children may have been particularly affected,” he said.

“Within the space of days and weeks, they learned that to help slow the spread of the virus they would not be returning to their school grounds after the school holidays and would instead be embarking on a learning-from-home journey.

“This change to the structure of their lives was coupled with the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, uncertainty about how long they would be learning from home, uncertainty about what would happen to assessments and exams, and uncertainty about how long their regular routines would be affected,” he said.

Mr Frkovic said the pandemic and its impact meant many people were now experiencing stress, anxiety and additional pressure.

“While we expect the impact on the nation’s mental health will be significant, I want to assure parents and school children that support is available to help them navigate this challenging time.”

He urged parents to be particularly vigilant in watching for signs of anxiety or stress in school children and encouraged them to seek support if they needed it.

“I know that our teachers and other school staff will continue to support students and to ensure that our school children are nurtured in the weeks ahead.

“Many, particularly senior students, feel pressure of important assessments and exams and some may be anxious about how the pandemic could affect their futures.

“Others might be reticent about being back in the classroom and will need some extra encouragement and support to make the transition a positive one.”

He said some students were also dealing with the disappointment of important events on the school calendar – such as formals, school trips and sports carnivals – being cancelled or postponed.

“It’s important that such disappointments be discussed at home and at school, and for alternatives to be explored to give our students something to look forward to as the year progresses,” he said.

The Queensland Mental Health Commission’s COVID-19 and mental health web site has a range of COVID-19 resources for children, young people and adults, including a fact sheet about supporting children and young people; tools and advice from organisations including Headspace and the Black Dog Institute; and links to help services for adults and children, including Kids Helpline.

Media: Carolyn Varley, 0477 385 121.