A new initiative that will provide a sort of mental health lifeline for some Massachusetts students, teachers and school administrators kicks off this week.
The Mental Health in Schools initiative is a partnership between human development organization Open Sky Community Services, Worcester Public Schools and districts in 20 other communities across the commonwealth.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that this pandemic really has been a traumatic experience for all of us on some level,” said Suzy Langevin, director of training and professional development for Open Sky Community Services.
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Through the initiative, Open Sky is facilitating a series of workshops to provide evidence-based training to help schools better support student mental health, through individual development and district-wide interventions. The first will be held Friday.
“It really is an effort to help schools see the importance of social emotional learning and have new strategies to support social-emotional learning in their classrooms,” Langevin said.
The goal is to provide support whether classes are in-person or virtual, like students in Worcester and several other districts have been for almost a full year.
“We are always hopeful that we can help break down those walls and help remove some stigma around mental health,” said Langevin. “The conversation is changing and we’re grateful to play any part we can around helping people understand that mental health is just as important as physical health.”
As a parent of five, Ethan Desota knows first-hand the negative impact this pandemic has had on the mental health of children.
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“We’re doing things as a family just to try to get out, it gets rough,” he said.
He said getting a dog during the pandemic and participating in limited, masked activities has helped his 12-year-old daughter Reya cope with learning remotely through Worcester Public Schools.
“She does say that it gives her a reason to get up in the morning,” Desota said.