PETERBOROUGH — Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders wishes to provide the community with information on ConVal’s mental health services, supports and initiatives.
The district has produced the following video showcasing its mental health services and supports:
“Over the last five years we have seen an increase in the mental health needs of our students, and we’re making strides to meet those needs — especially as we reflect on the impacts the last year has had,” Superintendent Saunders said. “We know that a child in crisis can’t attend to their learning. If you can’t help the child, you can’t teach the student.”
The ConVal School District has tiered supports available for students based on their level of need, including school counselors, school support counselors, mental health curriculum and programming, and also through community partnerships and wraparound services.
Staff at ConVal schools have also witnessed a spike in students struggling with mental health this school year due to the isolation and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this spurred the district to bring in two new student support counselors, one at each middle school, as well as one additional student counselor at the elementary school level.
“These are students who may meet with a counselor frequently, students who are dealing with multiple challenges in their lives,” said ConVal High School student support counselor Todd Bennett. “If a student is so anxious… they’re not really going to be in a place to perform at their best academically. Some students are struggling with significant depression– that’s going to be a barrier to even getting into school.”
A report last fall from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that from April-October 2020, mental-health related emergency department visits for children age five through 11 rose 24% and for children and teens age 12-17, visits rose 31% compared to 2019.
According to the report, frequently the emergency department visits are the first point of care when a child has a mental health emergency. To read the report, click here.
“Our student support counselor has been able to support our most vulnerable students, freeing up resources to reach more students and more families and so this is something we’re looking forward to continuing even post-COVID-19,” Great Brooks Principal Kat Foecking said.
The district has included these three positions in its proposed budget for the 2020-2021 school year. To learn more about the budget, which voters in the district’s sending communities will vote on Tuesday, March 9, click here.
An In-Depth Look at Mental Health at ConVal
School counselors are available to every student in the district, and give classroom lessons on mental health and social emotional wellbeing topics, and also assist students with college and career planning. This year, one of the district’s elementary school counselors is specifically assigned to remote learning and has integrated counseling into daily classroom sessions. During this time, the counselor is able to teach students about social emotional health topics including mindfulness, compassion and cultural competency.
The district also has student support counselors at its middle and high schools who provide a higher level of support to students who may be struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other concerns. The student support counselors primarily provide individual counseling to students, but also oversee student groups that discuss how to healthily navigate topics like grief.
Additionally, the district has relationships with several agencies in the community through which students and families can be connected to additional support and wraparound services, including the Monadnock Region System of Care as well as the River Center- Family & Community Support Resource Center and the Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center. The district is able to refer students and families to these organizations, should they need support beyond what a student support counselor can provide.
ConVal has additionally organized a series of mental health virtual events for students, parents and guardians this school year, including the showing of a documentary about bullying, “The Upstanders,” in October 2020 and another showing of a documentary, “LIKE,” about the impacts of social media in February. A third virtual event will be held this April featuring a documentary, “ANGST,” about anxiety. The district has made strides to further integrate mental health and social emotional wellbeing into its curriculum at all levels, and implemented programming to help recognize the signs of suicidal ideation at the middle school level this year. This curriculum is already in place at ConVal High School.
District staff additionally undergo regular training to further support students’ mental health; for example, on Tuesday, March 9 district staff will take part in a teen dating violence prevention training. Staff are also trained in youth mental health first aide, suicide prevention, nonviolent crisis intervention, and life space crisis intervention.
“Whatever we can do to help students and families heal and get better, that’s going to help set them up for better outcomes in terms of graduating from high school and what they can see after high school in their lives as well. We’re all in for supporting mental health in the school district,” said Director of School Counseling Tim Cotreau.
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ConVal recently launched a news portal, ConValNews.com, to serve as a hub for the latest updates, information and news about the district’s schools, students and faculty, as well as events and accomplishments.
Members of the ConVal community are encouraged to subscribe to the site, enabling them to receive updates whenever news is posted. To subscribe, visit ConValNews.com/Subscribe.
Respond to the District’s Communications Survey
Parents and guardians, as well as residents in the nine towns ConVal serves, are encouraged to complete a short survey to provide feedback on the district’s communication and outreach efforts.
Members of the community can find and complete the survey that’s most relevant to them by visiting ConValSurveys.com