CONCORD — The New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association (CBHA) and its ten community mental health center (CMHCs) members are closely working with local school districts to provide mental health support for students, families and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CMHC’s have had ongoing relationships with schools for many years, but now more than ever, their services and expertise are needed and appreciated. COVID-19 forced schools to go virtual in March 2020, creating high levels of stress for students, families, and educators. As we are now into the first part of the new school year, meeting the safety, social and emotional wellness needs of all students, families and school staff continues to be a priority.
The pandemic has blurred the work/home/family dynamic and poses challenges that are unfamiliar and at times difficult to overcome. “Home life and school life blend into one another and this is causing a great deal of confusion, stress and impact on families. There’s more isolation and anxiety within the household, and our clinicians are working hard to connect with families, being flexible around schedules and offering support in person or through telehealth,” says Seacoast Mental Health Center’s VP of Community Relations Rebecca Throop.
Amanda Seavey, Youth and Family Manager at Community Partners in Strafford County, added, “Our relationship with our local schools has strengthened during this pandemic. We have weekly consultations with administration and staff to adapt to current needs. We are also having conversations around the mental well-being of the staff and teachers in addition to the students. It’s all-hands-on-deck and we want to be there for anyone who is needing help. It’s an extremely challenging time.”
To address student mental health, clinicians have provided direct clinical services and have worked with school staff to integrate social-emotional learning and relationship building strategies into the entire school community. Clinicians are supporting both the remote and hybrid models of local schools and are prepared for it all to change on a dime.
Sandy Norton, Director of Child, Adolescent and Family Clinical Services at Center for Life Management in Derry, says “We have definitely noticed schools have reached out more this year and there has been increased collaboration. Early on, schools were anticipating an increase in mental health needs for the students and wanted to make sure they had the right information and support. This has definitely highlighted an awareness around the importance of mental health in the students, families and staff.”
Throop said, “We are very cognizant of the fact that the impacts of this pandemic on children, families and schools are significant and are not going to subside any time soon. The community mental health centers are here to support them, at home and in the classroom, in person and virtually.”
For more information on the New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association or how to find contact information for the ten community mental health centers, go to www.NHCBHA.org.