Mental Health Teams Provide Support

Mental Health Teams See Increased Need
Posted on 05/13/2020
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and in no year has it seemed more critical to recognize our students’ and staff’s mental health needs than this one. The CCSD mental health team has been working since schools closed in March to maintain their connection to the social-emotional well-being of the entire school community.

At the elementary level, social workers Amelia Berezein and Dana Podkowka have been connecting with students and families weekly by phone, email and videoconferencing.

“It has been less about traditional ‘counseling,’” they said. “It is more about providing a check-in and emotional support.”

They set up a social worker Google Classroom to provide students with a safe space to share feelings and engage students in conversation, including a weekly virtual Lunch Bunch. They have also created videos, posted to the district’s YouTube channel, for further support students and parents, with topics like believing in yourself, mindful breathing, and addressing challenges at home.

Berezein and Podkowka has kept in daily contact with classroom teachers, both to offer guidance on addressing student needs they see and to support teachers themselves with their own social-emotional needs.

“It’s a way to build morale and stay connected,” they said.

At the secondary level, the mental health team – counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses - has been making weekly phone calls to students and families to check in on their well-being and needs. Counselors have held grade level meetings with students over Google Meet on several occasions in addition to individual counseling sessions with students. The team also created online surveys for students to self-report their mental health needs. From these meetings and surveys, counselors have been able to see how student needs have changed from technology and school work support to issues that increasingly fall under the mental health umbrella.

“With the announcement that schools are closed for the remainder of the year, that is bringing out different issues that didn’t happen when school was in session,” guidance counselor Bob Mengucci said. “The best thing we can do is listen, because right now there are no answers.”

School psychologists have developed videos as support resources for parents, and they regularly speak with both parents and students about stress, anxiety, isolation and other issues that arise.

The entire team has also worked to support teachers both with issues they may be seeing in students as well as their own mental health needs.