Ask any of your Bible students how they are and the response is probably going to be, “Fine”. Unfortunately, the word “fine” has virtually no real meaning behind it. It can mean anything from having a pretty great day to being sad, depressed or even suicidal.
The current COVID environment can make the answer “Fine” even more problematic. Virtual classrooms and face masks can hide some of the visual cues we unknowingly use to assess the actual meaning of “Fine” when spoken by a student.
Recent studies have found as many as 25% of young adults have at least thought about suicide since late March. While the study didn’t appear to test kids and teens, normally as many as 20% of teens have at least one major depressive episode. The rate of suicides in young people aged 10-24 jumped 56% between 2007 and 2017. Public elementary school teachers are now regularly trained in suicide prevention.
In addition to depression, incidents of abuse are rising. Abuse is more common under stress or with use of alcohol and drugs…all of which have risen during COVID. The signs of abuse aren’t always easily visible. Abusers are often savvy about injuring their victims in places covered by clothing. Children are threatened if they tell anyone or ask for help.
It is also possible, one or more of your Bible students is suddenly food deprived – especially in areas where public school has become distance learning. Children in poverty have totally disappeared from the public school system in many areas, as they are unable to access needed technology or parents don’t force them to participate in digital learning.
There may be other ways your students are struggling. Yet most likely, they will tell you they are “Fine”. Don’t take “Fine” for an answer. Ask follow up questions. Note tone and body language. Pay attention to changes in grooming or body weight over time. Some changes are normal, but extreme changes can indicate something else is happening.
Below, you will find some basic resources if you suspect something is happening that isn’t “Fine”. Do your research. Pray about it. Report it if it is endangering your student (You may be considered a mandatory reporter in your state – even as a ministry volunteer.). Just don’t ignore it when a young person is struggling. And never accept, “Fine” as an answer.
Child Hunger https://www.charities.org/child-hunger