Young, sorrowful schoolboy sitting in front of his locker with his arms crossed on his knees. 

By Patricia Purcell, M.Ed. BSN, RN

It has been just over one year since the closing of schools due to Covid 19. For many children, it has been a year of remote learning. As some children have returned to classrooms as early as September, others are just beginning to return to in-person learning this spring. Some will remain remote through the rest of the school year. The question is, how are our children doing?

Some parents report that remote learning has been a boon for their child. Their grades have never been better. They are embracing the world of virtual classrooms and thriving. For many other children, however, this time has been a major setback for both their education and their emotional well-being. Many adolescents with ME/CFS have experienced long periods of school remotely and the isolation associated with it, further challenging their needs for social interactions that can be brought on by the disease itself. While some adults with ME/CFS have benefitted from worldwide videoconferencing that has allowed them to stay closer to their communities, adolescents have different needs. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, two of the developmental tasks of adolescence are to develop social skills and empathy and a sense of identity. Both of these tasks happen through interactions with peers. Schools have started to recognize that students will return to school with not only educational setbacks, but also setbacks in their social and emotional skills.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health condition. 64.1 percent of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment and 5.13 percent of youth report having a substance abuse or alcohol problem (

It is important that adults, physicians and school nurses identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in youth. “Adults sometimes forget how hard it was being an adolescent. When we see a kid who is just miserable at school, we might think that they just choose to be that way. But they might, in fact, be having a mental health crisis that they certainly did not choose and do not want. When a teacher or other adult says ‘how can I be helpful?’ that is a powerful question,” says Alyssa Fruchtenicht, School-based Mental Health Coordinator with Unity Point Health in Waterloo, Iowa.

The National Council for Behavioral Health suggests that school nurses and counselors apply the ALGEE action plan when we identify common signs and symptoms of mental illness in this age group, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Courses are available through on Youth Mental Health First Aid. It is a course for teachers, school staff, coaches, camp counselors, youth group leaders, parents or any people who work with youth. It addresses common signs and symptoms of mental illness or substance abuse, how to interact with a child or adolescent in crisis and how to connect the person with help.


Mental Health America

National Alliance for Mental Illness

National Council for Behavioral Health 

The impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Adolescents

Pediatric ME/CFS: Fact Sheet for Healthcare Professionals

About Nurse Patti

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Meet Nurse Patti!  

Patti Purcell is a Registered Nurse with 30 years of nursing experience, including 26 as a school nurse. Patti has a passion for helping others to make sense of the many complicated aspects of health and medical terminology. We are delighted that she is bringing her experience to the Massachusetts ME/CFS & FM Association. 

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