School districts focusing on mental health amid challenging year

Emily Putnam
Updated: December 17, 2020 07:07 PM
Created: December 17, 2020 06:38 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)  — This pandemic has been mentally and emotionally challenging for all of us, but especially for students. 

While COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge in our region, school and health officials are re-emphasizing the need to be mindful of social-emotional wellbeing in kids. 

"The amount that COVID has been in the headlines really misrepresents how much I think about all the other aspects of social-emotional health, particularly pertaining to kids in our K-12 schools," Monroe County Dept. of Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said. 

Mendoza joined Superintendents Kathleen Graupman, Mary Grow, and Jo Anne Antonacci on an ACT for Education Zoom call Thursday, where they discussed how they addressed social-emotional needs in students during the fall semester, and stressed the need to stay vigilant about mental health concerns going forward. 

"We've started this year with, really sort of stressing the importance of connecting and building relationships with kids, so that is built into everybody's schedule each day," Kathleen Graupman, superintendent of Greece Central School District said. 

East Rochester had success instating a Social Emotional Learning (or SEL) team at the beginning of the school year. 

"That SEL team would be the conduit that would support staff that are willing to have an intervention if you will," Mary Grow, superintendent of East Rochester Central School District, said. 

Increases in depression, suicide, and the severity of child abuse claims nationwide underscore the necessity of creating a safe, open space for kids and teens to talk about whatever is on their mind. And although we've come a long way in our understanding of the virus, Mendoza says we still have a lot to learn. 

"I don't think we fully even understand the breadth of what this social isolation has done for the mental health and our social-emotional health of our kids and our parents, and all of us," Mendoza said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or other mental health concerns, you can call the 24/7 crisis hotline at 211, or click here.

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