DSBN is taking action to help students cope with the mental health implications of the pandemic - and the uncertainty of what ‘back to school’ will look like in September.
A new phone line for students and parents of DSBN-schools opened up on Monday and aims to connect students with resources to stay well and find coping mechanisms for things like anxiety.
The initiative comes after a grant from the government enabled the school board to have 10 social workers manning the phones throughout the summer.
DSBN Mental Health Lead, Dr. Amanda Sherman told Thorold News that frontline workers in the early days of the school closure were able to stay in touch with many of the cases they normally handle via the phone to continue to deliver support, but that missing out on in-person contact with students made the work harder.
“When the school closed down, social workers reported, just like in regular times, that some families were doing pretty well and others needing more support. A lot of it had to do with what went on in the lives of the adults. A lot of families felt uncertain about job stability, health stressors, and more, and for parents who kept their employment it was stressful working from home and taking care of kids, helping them to learn.”
She said students in their second or final year of high school faced added pressure when missing out on many milestones that typically follow graduation, or missing out on spending time with their peers.
“But our teams in Niagara have been resilient and seeing that many have been coping well, finding ways to stay connected and remembering that this is all temporary.”
Sherman said she expects the phone traffic to pick up towards the end of the summer when some students, even during before the pandemic, would feel nervous about returning to the school bench and academic pressure, after months of no obligations.
“The closer we are getting to September when we potentially will go back, a lot of uncertainty and hesitance arises that will make us anxious of what the school day will look like, or if we will be able to see friends.”
She said the phone line will help students with an already existing relationship with a social worker stay connected or provide others with techniques to cope and stay well throughout the summer break.
The Summer Wellness Line is staffed by school social workers from June 29 to September 1, 2020. It operates Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (except for holidays July 3rd and August 3rd). If you phone after hours, please leave a voicemail message and it will be returned as soon as possible on the next business day.