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Video: Northland schools prioritizing mental health for families struggling with distance learning

Nov 24, 2020 05:32AM ● By Editor

Watch the WDIO-TV Report here

Photo: WDIO-TV

By Alejandra Palacios of WDIO-TV - November 23, 2020 

It has been a challenging year for students and also for parents adapting to distance learning and the isolation that comes from COVID-19. That's why Northland school districts say they are prioritizing mental health for students and their families.

The Superior School District continues offering free virtual mental health services for families. They are encouraging families to take time to do self-care.

"Some things that we are trying to remind kids as part of our instructional model is to make sure that kids continue to exercise and be active and it's important to maintain those social connections," said Amy Starzecki, the district administrator for the Superior School District.

Starzecki said as a parent, she has seen the challenges with her kids doing distance learning too. She said kids are social beings and is growing more concerned about the long term effects this pandemic is going to have on them academically and mentally. That's why they encourage families to reach out.

Mental Health facilities have noted the impact this has had on families too.

"There is an increase in not only students needing individual therapy, but just parents needing support for either themselves or just how to navigate providing the right support for their kids. On the positive I think that people are acknowledging that there is a mental health impact to all of this," said Ina Newton, a therapist for The Hills Youth and Family Services.

Newton offered some advice on what families can do to release those overwhelming feelings.

"Connection doesn't always just come from people. It comes from animals or furry friends, it comes from nature, it comes from spirituality so whatever you need as a space to be connected to give yourself permission to do that," said Newton.

The Proctor School District is focusing on social emotional concerns. Rachel Burlet, a psychologist for Proctor Public Schools said teachers and counselors are constantly checking in with students.

"They've been meeting with students one on one working through a really wide variety of concerns and feelings right now and I know a lot of our students have been really appreciative," said Burlet.

Burlet said she and other school leaders have meetings to discuss this and have offered lessons to teachers on stress management and self care that they can share with students.

Some additional advice from Newton is to create an intentional and realistic schedule for your family.

"Don't overdo it and make sure you're scheduling fun in there too for scheduling breaks and if you're overwhelmed reach out to the teachers or your staff," said Newton.

Also, Newton said don't bottle these negative feelings, talk about it.

"We do have to give ourselves grace, and just recognize that it is hard and it's important to label those feelings first and label where those feelings are coming from," said Newton.

Newton also said it's important to take time to do things that make us happy.

"Going back to the basics, really rooting yourself in your culture or in your traditions and trying to still be intentional. Just trying to find ways to continue those traditions, even if it looks differently, versus just not doing them. It's a great time to also start new traditions or cultural connections or spiritual connections that you know can help kind of build up that resiliency," said Newton.

Also remembering you’re not alone, we are all in this together and will get through this one step at a time.

"Even though we're social distancing, we're here. I want all of our families and our students to know that we're available anytime. Reach out to us, we want to help," said Burlet.

For families in need of services, it is recommended to reach out to the school your child goes to directly. 

Superior School District has additional information for families here.

Proctor Public Schools additional resources can be found here.

Additional details on the Hills Youth and Family Services can be found here.

To watch the original report and se related stories, follow this link to the WDIO-TV website.