TAYLOR, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Colleges face a problem that goes past making ready youngsters to turn into productive members of society. They have to first handle scholar psychological well being points that may threaten their well-being now and sooner or later.
Eyewitness Information teamed up with the Occasions Chief for a collection of reviews referred to as “Invisible Battles” which heart on youngsters and psychological well being.
First up, we checked out an area college district’s technique to assist hold college students’ psychological well being in test.
The door is open at Samantha Valente’s Riverside Elementary West workplace. The licensed skilled counselor, LPC for brief, has been on the job since late December.
She counsels college students from kindergarten via second grade to deal with a rising difficulty in colleges: psychological well being.
“If they’re having a nasty day they’ll come and speak or take a break,” said Valente.
Valente is considered one of three licensed skilled counselors employed this college 12 months at Riverside one every at each elementary colleges and one other on the Excessive College.
Riverside grew to become the one Pennsylvania college district this college 12 months to obtain a $750,000 grant to pay the LPC salaries for 3 years. In simply her first month on the job, Valente obtained psychological well being service referrals for about 15 kindergarten via 2nd-grade college students.
However issues like nervousness, despair, and obsessive-compulsive habits can strike college youngsters at any age, and linger via life if left unaddressed.
“I feel that it’s good that counselors are right here as a result of everytime you’re nervous or unhappy you’ll be able to at all times speak to them,” mentioned Bianca Wincovitch, 2nd Grader, at Riverside Elementary West.
“I like the advisors within the college as a result of they assist youngsters once they’re unhappy and have a nasty day,” mentioned Landon Yarem, 2nd Grader, at Riverside Elementary West.
Unhealthy days aren’t solely attributable to stressors taking place at college. Some stressors are extra apparent than others. Even one thing so simple as meals insecurity can ship a scholar right into a downward spiral.
The shortage of constant entry to meals can create large obstacles for college students to study and develop. Some college students scuffling with stressors could barely act out, if in any respect. Nicole Brush is the LPC for a whole lot of Riverside seventh via twelfth graders.
“I feel quite a lot of instances at school folks say ‘oh, you understand this scholar looks as if they need assistance’. Perhaps they’re being disruptive in school, they appear to be pacing round so much. Perhaps they mentioned one or two issues that had been possibly like slightly out of character or disrespectful,” defined Nicole Brush, Licensed Skilled Counselor, at Riverside College District.
By being in the highschool, Brush is ready to meet college students the place they’re within the second.
“And quite a lot of them, they’re youngsters and so they need to be non-public with issues, you understand, and I feel that’s one other facet of why I’m right here as a result of I can provide non-public counseling that college students would get outdoors however have it right here and have this sacred house for the scholars,” said Brush.
Highschool senior Jennifer Genell considers that particularly necessary due to an impediment that would stop college students from in search of assist: stigma.
“I feel there undoubtedly continues to be a slight stigma towards psychological sickness however general the neighborhood right here may be very encouraging. I imply we stroll in these doorways and we all know that there’s a crew of people who find themselves right here to assist us if we want it,” defined Jennifer Genell, Senior, Riverside Jr./Sr. Excessive College.
In accordance with 2021 Riverside information, a couple of in three college students within the district exhibited psychological well being issues requiring a referral for extra assist.
A few of these issues had been exacerbated and even attributable to pandemic restrictions which impacted college students’ educational, social, and emotional well-being.
“We’re coping with, like, isolation however coming again to highschool and form of simply readjusting it was a course of,” mentioned Genell.
However now, college students have quick psychological well being assets to assist when assets would possibly in any other case not be available.
“It doesn’t need to get to the purpose the place the kid is experiencing trauma upon trauma upon trauma,” expressed Tina Wydeen, Licensed Medical Social Employee at Riverside College District.
Tina Wydeen works with the LPCs to evaluate the wants of particular person college students and find out how to finest handle these must put them on the perfect path ahead.
“You’ve got an exquisite alternative to create a local weather of caring that you really want them to depart inside a way of belonging,” defined Wydeen.
Wydeen says Riverside is attempting to construct what she calls a “continuum of care”. Whereas the grant funding to offer LPCS is just for three years, district officers say they’re exploring methods to take care of these psychological well being companies.
Watch the video beneath of the prolonged interview with Nicole Brush, LPC.
Scholar well being considerations reduce throughout all communities in and past NEPA. Eyewitness Information will take a better take a look at a joint reporting challenge with Occasions Chief referred to as “Invisible Battles” starting Friday night on Eyewitness Information.
You possibly can learn the Occasions Chief’s first report on this Sunday’s version.