James Brescia
SLO County Superintendent James Brescia

A new school year, job, living arrangement, and even a new relationship can cause stress. For many, fall means back to school, a return to routine, or time to begin a new term. Some view the fall as a chance to make a fresh start and an opportunity to make new friends. However, individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, or depression may find transitions very difficult. These transitions can be particularly challenging for individuals with mental health concerns because they struggle with friendships, may have difficulty relating to teachers, or may experience discontent. If you have a loved one, friend, colleague, or acquaintance that is dealing with a mental health issue, there are ways you can assist with transitions. Local school officials and non-government organizations (NGOs) such as the LINK can identify available services and facilitate needed services for youth and families.

Transitions to a different school can signify social and educational development for many preschool, elementary, middle, and high school students. Regular events such as puberty, changing schools, making friends, and accepting more autonomy are considered rites of passage. Often the physical environment in which the transition occurs is larger in size and expectations for most people. However, compared to an elementary school’s smaller, single-teacher environment, middle, or high school students are exposed to multiple teachers and differing expectations, which may cause stress. Transitioning to the workplace or college can also cause stress, further challenging those with disabilities.

Young adults with mental health issues can face difficulties such as accessing educational accommodations, high-quality mental health care, or affordable treatment options. The transition to college or the workplace may also require some planning. Organizations such as the National Transition Technical Assistance Center exist to help individuals overwhelmed with getting ready for post-secondary education. However, research shows that emotional issues are most likely to interfere with success during transitions, even young adult transitions.  


There is no “right” routine for transitions. Stress-reducing methods include:

  • Time Buffer — If something takes longer than planned, consider extra downtime.
  • Individual Path — Personal preference in completing tasks can reduce stress. 
  • Group Support — Agreement and support also reduce anxiety. 
  • Task Lists — Breaking tasks into parts may reduce the stress and simplify the process.

Mental health should be considered the same as physical health. Individuals with mental health challenges need regular mental health checkups. Schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist or therapist early in the school year and ask questions about proactive/preventative behaviors. 

Mental health can be directly affected by the quality of physical health. Summertime often means snacks on the go and slacking off on healthy lifestyle choices. Try to get back on track with the following suggestions: 

  • Ensure enough sleep. Speak with a healthcare provider about sleep disturbances. 
  • Focus on a healthy diet. Foods such as nuts, avocados, and dark chocolate are considered beneficial for ensuring good mental health. 
  • Maintain an active lifestyle. Make exercise fun by participating in sports, doing nightly activities such as walking, roller skating, or spending your weekend hiking or biking.

Fall transitions can be difficult for individuals with stress-related issues, but anticipating and working to counteract problems in advance can assist with transitional anxiety. San Luis Obispo County residents have access to 2-1-1 SLO County, a free program that is a one-stop way to obtain timely access to health and human services and referrals. Together, we strengthen our community by practicing patience, flexibility, and kindness. It is an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.


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