A Conversation on Mental Health in K-12 IT


Episode 24: A Conversation on Mental Health in K-12 IT

Over the past couple of years, mental health in K-12 IT has received more attention and is beginning to be discussed more. School district technology leaders have been stretched thin as schools moved into remote and hybrid learning in the midst of the pandemic.

Students, teachers, and staff were—and still are—online much more often. District IT teams have the challenging task of monitoring and controlling the online activities taking place in their district’s online cloud environment. IT staff are implementing K-12 cyber safety programs to keep students safe online when using school-provided technology.

Cyber safety in school districts is becoming a growing area for district IT leaders to address. And rightfully so. The mental health of students, teachers, and staff has been an important topic lately across education. But, what about the mental health of the IT staff themselves?

In this episode of The K-12 Tech Experience, we are joined once again by David Mendez at Region 10 Education Service Center, for a deeper conversation on mental health in K-12 IT. David shares his own experiences as a K-12 IT leader himself, healthy habits to maintain good mental health, and shares some tips and resources for listeners to take away.

Read more about our conversation with David Mendez in our episode preview below (edited for brevity). Give the episode a listen by clicking on the podcast player on this page and subscribe to you are always up to date on the latest from The K-12 Tech Experience!

JK: I know you joined us recently to discuss embedding cybersecurity into K-12 culture. You talked about being committed to not only making sure school districts were being taken care of, but also the technology administrators themselves are being supported, which got us talking briefly about mental health in K-12. I’m looking forward to this conversation to discuss the topic further.

DM: You are indeed right, we briefly touched upon the topic last time. The keyword you said there was taking care of folks. That sparked in my mind the topic of self-care. It just speaks to the whole topic of mental health and all the things surrounding it.

The topic in and of itself isn’t talked about enough. It comes from the stigma it’s associated with and the thoughts people have, which we’ll talk about in a bit. It goes to show we have a lot of work to do. In the K-12 world and in cybersecurity it’s no different. We have to have these conversations to help take care of people.

You can Google this stuff—it’s out there. But these statistics are from very reputable sources and we’ve all seen the numbers. 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness each year, for example. 1 in 20 adults experience serious issues each year. 1 in 6 youth aged 6-17—those we serve in the K-12 space—experience a mental health disorder each year.

What I’d like to talk about today is how mental health affects the K-12 space and IT in particular. Discussions have to happen.

JK: The stats are pretty striking when you take a look at them. There is a lot more light being shed on mental health in the K-12 community, especially since there was a lot more isolation in the past couple of years because of the pandemic. For students, teachers, administrators, IT teams—it’s been stressful.

DM: We can start by talking about what are those indicators of anxiety, mental health issues, depression. I think it’s a lot of things. Everyone can have these conversations with that trusted source, a medical professional, counselor, what have you.

Some of the things I’ve seen respected people in some of the studies out there say is that the digital age brought forth a lot of information. We are living in this new digital age, but unfortunately, sometimes this plethora of choices and availability of data comes at us at a crazy amount—our brains are not wired to handle that much info hitting us at once.

How we get this influx of data, notifications, alerts, etc. It’s something that has plagued us to the point where we can’t handle it anymore. People need to take time to purposely pause from it all and take a mental break.

Listen to the rest of our conversation with David below and check out previous episodes on the ManagedMethods podcast page. Make sure to subscribe to The K-12 Tech Experience wherever you listen to your podcasts, so you never miss an episode!

*Disclaimer: Not professional medical advice. For more information, please visit the resources referenced during the conversation.