The Need of Psychologists and Counselors in Schools

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The mental health toll this school change, and really life change, has taken on so many people, it's staggering. School psychologists, counselors, and social workers are going to be in need more than ever before. Christy interviews Karen Anthony, Oakland Schools, Mental Health Consultant, Early Childhood District & School Services, and Sirrita Darby, Director, Detroit Heals Detroit.

Joining me now is Karen Anthony.
Joining me now is Karen Anthony, she is a counselor and she's the early childhood mental health consultant for Oakland Schools. Hi, Karen, it's good to see you. - Hi, nice to see you. - And also with us is Sirrita Darby. She's an educator and she created Detroit Heals Detroit to address trauma in students. Sirrita, it's good to have you too. - Likewise, glad to be here. - All right, so Karen, why don't you go ahead and just give us a sense of how you're working with students in your role with Oakland schools? - So I work in our early childhood unit. So I primarily work with our Great Start Readiness Program, which is our preschoolers. So with whatever challenges that they may have when it comes to mental health, oftentimes, it's connecting them with resources and making sure that they feel, like feel like their supported so that they can be in school to learn. - Sirrita, what about you and working with teens and trauma? - So I've been an educator in Detroit for the past five years. With Detroit Heals Detroit, we try to combat the negative mental health impacts of COVID-19, so we've been doing that with our Youth Task Force and really letting youth lead that movement, but also realizing that the root causes of trauma needs to be addressed too. So we consider ourself a social justice organization that aims to do that as well. - All right, Sirrita, why don't you start, go ahead by describing what are some of the signs of stress that students are showing at this time with schedules disrupted also, maybe some at home, difficulties at home if they're stressed there. - Absolutely, yeah, so the anxiety, the depression was already present before COVID-19, right? So now we're just amplifying that anxiety and that depression that already existed, especially in marginalized communities. I mean, again, the inequalities within the communities are being amplified and the students are really feeling it. If they didn't feel it before, they're feeling it now, right? I know a lot of people see our elderly population as the most vulnerable during this time, and that is true, but I also want us to recognize that our youth are some of the most vulnerable too, because when we think about this pandemic 10 years, 20 years from now,
Our youth are gonna be feeling that burden.
our youth are gonna be feeling that burden. They're gonna cure it a trauma on our backs from this pandemic for generations to come. And then, they're gonna carry it out to their children. So we have to think about that as educators and people in this work, how do we combat that for them? - Karen, let give us a sense of what are the signs that even the littles are showing that they're stressed by this? - You might see kids that start to almost amplify a lot of, I don't wanna say aggression, but maybe just you see them moving a little bit more, like there's this piece of isolation that we have right now, that's really hard. Kids need to be out, they need to be playing, they need to be moving. And oftentimes, they're just not able to have that opportunity now, so you're gonna probably see more outward signs of kids behaving and different ways, but then you can also see the opposite, so sometimes you see kids moving in the other direction where they might withdraw, they might kind of move into themselves. And so I think for parents, it's really just watching to see how different is my child acting? Is this kind of their normal way of being? Or have they really, really changed? And if they have, then that's a time to reach out for some support. - Sirrita, what about some of the older kids? What are some of the signs and maybe even the differences between gender? Sometimes girls express themselves in a totally different way than boys do? - Yeah, yeah, definitely. So with our women population and our young women population, we can see it show up as anger in the classroom, right? She's reacting to what's going on in her life. That's a natural reaction. And then I see that our boys sometimes they get withdrawn. They're not present within the classroom, even though they're physically present, mentally and emotionally, they're not there, and they're not connected to the learning and they can't be because of what's going on at home, because they have to think about when back home and what home may look like. - So Karen, how difficult is for a child who's trying to do the schoolwork? Who's trying to keep up with everything? How much does this play into what they actually can do? - Partly what's happening is that,
Parents are trying to stay on top of their own work and the things they are doing
parents are trying to stay on top of their own work and the things that they're doing. And then they're also trying to support their children and doing what they need to do. So it's really, there's a lot going on in families' homes. So in thinking about these little ones, especially the little ones, learning online is not really something that the preschoolers especially do. It's just not, it's not in them. But I think it really is hard because we learn through being together and so these little ones aren't really getting that opportunity anymore. A lot of what I've been telling parents is kind of like, take a step back. If you feel like it's too much, communicate with your child's teacher and just let them know. This is too much right now and we can't do this. And most teachers have been really, really supportive in that. - You know Karen, you bring this great point. And Sirrita, let me ask you about how can parents help when parents are feeling trauma themselves, that they are just trying to get through the day themselves, let alone trying to now troubleshoot what's happening with their kids or trying to figure out, is this normal behavior? Is this not normal behavior? How do parents help when they're feeling that trauma? - Yes, this is a traumatic event for everyone involved, even if it's little. I know some people have the luxury of working from home and don't have to go to work and put yourself at risk. But for those families that do, that's traumatic to go to work and put yourself at risk and then come home and think about how your child may be feeling that trauma too from being at school or not being at school, or not feeling safe? So thinking about that for parents where they have the extra stress in thinking about their selves and then thinking about their children, their physical and mental wellbeing is a lot. - What about mental health services, Karen? Are we going to be seeing more of that coming from the school or at least more resources from schools across the area, knowing that this is just a key component to learning is making a child feel like their whole to begin with? - That is one of the priorities that we have right now at Oakland schools is we are putting together plans and we are seeking out more and more resources.
I think K-12 will likely get some dollars that will help support those pieces.
I think K-12 will likely get some dollars that will help support those pieces. There's never any guarantee with younger kids because it's not part of the K-12 system. But I would like to say, there's gonna be more support in K-12 but I do know that like right now, our state budget is kind of up in the air. So I really would hope that would be a priority, but I really don't have that answer. - You know, and I think Sirrita, that's one of the things that we're gonna see are more nonprofits gonna be stepping in? Are more organizations, Detroit Heals Detroit, being able to to kind of fill that gap that maybe our schools need might not be able to help so much with? - Trauma is not dealt within isolation. So it shouldn't be combated in isolation. So that's what organizations like Detroit comes in and tries to help. It's a collective effort of community, combating trauma and making sure our students heal and get through this tough time. So what I hope is that those budgets for those things that destress the students don't get impacted, like sports, or arts. - So last words from both of you. Karen, let me start with you. The things that we need to take into account now moving forward with our kids? - I guess my biggest thing is always for people not to be afraid to reach out for help. And that's the piece that I think sometimes, there is still a stigma about mental health in our communities. And so if we really think about what can families do, they can reach out for help when they need it, - Just as practitioners in this work, remembering that our students are going to be mentally affected from this pandemic, so really realizing that as we start school in the fall, and doing everything we do to alleviate that stress for them, whether that be having less homework or having less working class and really making sure we're committed to the mental health as well as the academics 'cause they're both important for our students.

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