The return to remote learning in the Jeffco Public School District comes with hurdles for some families that go beyond math, science and reading — for students with mental health challenges, all the disruption and distance caused by most classrooms going remote are all the more intense.
The school district is quick to say that the support structure of teachers, counselors, psychologists and other school personnel are still at the service of the students and families who often depend on them to help maintain their well-being.
Susan Leach, Chief Success Officer for JCPSD wants parents and students to know that despite the shift back to at-home learning, the District’s mental health programs and services will continue to be available.
“The departments involved in mental health support have been adapting everything they do to be delivered in a remote environment through a virtual platform,” she said. “And every school website has a link to refer a student that may need some mental health support. If you need someone, click on that link and we’ll be monitoring it.”
Leach also stressed that anyone in the community, not just parents or family, can go to a school website and recommend that a child should be checked on. And that teachers, often the first point of contact with students, will continue to look for signs a student needs help and relay their concerns to mental health staff.
Colorado Department of Human Services reports that the Colorado Crisis Line continues to generate record-breaking volume during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Colorado Crisis Line Media Manager, Lindsay Sandoval, average monthly calls and texts are up 33% during the pandemic compared to January and February of this year. Leach says the good news in that statistic is that people are reaching out for help rather than suffering in silence. She says she welcomes hearing from families and realizes they’re going through incredibly challenging times. She also reminds students and parents that if they reach out to a teacher and don’t get the response they’re looking for, they can email or call a counselor directly.
Vincent Atchity is President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. His organization, around since 1953, is dedicated to creating policy that increases access to quality care and ending the shame and discrimination that often accompany mental health issues. They recently developed a toolkit that’s designed to serve as a blueprint for school mental health services. He thinks the risks involved in returning to remote-learning are real. And that when the eyes of counselors, teachers and coaches aren’t on them all day, a student’s signs of distress could be more easily missed.
But he said “Ultimately, kids are super resilient in most cases and a lot of kids’ mental health comes from their family’s mental health. The best thing we can do when living with kids is give them the tools and habits that connect them to what is real.”