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CCSD planning mental health supports for the future
Cherry Creek Schools is celebrating Mental Health Awareness in the present by imagining the future of mental health.
“We always want our students to be seen for their authentic selves and welcomed,” Assistant Superintendent of Special Populations Dr. Tony Poole said. “We want our schools to be safe spaces for our students because we know that’s critical to their ability to learn.”
As education continues to grow and evolve, schools are also seeing a shift in their approach to mental health. In recent years, the school district has implemented new curricula that focuses on social-emotional skills, restorative practices and bullying and suicide prevention. Schools have mental health teams as well as student clubs like No Place for Hate. Partnerships with outside agencies such as Colorado Crisis Services and the Aurora Mental Health Center provide additional support.
Still, there are many miles to go.
“Our students have a greater need for mental health than ever before,” Poole said. “The pandemic has impacted all of our students, as has the racial and cultural tensions that our students see play out on a national and global stage. As we welcome students back in the fall of 2021, we will continue to develop ways to support our students.”
Dr. Amy Plog, Research and Data Coordinator, looks at trends in suicide and mental health concerns to inform school supports. She shared that mental health is a complex and multilayered topic with many factors at play such as anxiety, depression or suicide. Plog has found that while many people are quick to cite technology, other contributing factors such as climate change, social justice efforts and individual situations can also affect students’ mental health.
“There’s no one causal factor for any one individual,” Plot added. “What this means is that schools need broad-based responses and universal supports, such as supporting students with coping skills and creating positive environments.”
Talk Change CCSD is a student-led team that seeks to talk about mental health needs in order to create positive change. The group is supported by district-level mental health staff in the Wellness office and hopes to unify the community by addressing and reducing the stigma around mental health.
The group shared some of the recommendations for parents and caregivers they felt were most important:
- Keep an eye out for changes in your child’s behavior. Be aware they may be experiencing depression, grief or anxiety. (See American Academy of Pediatrics’ website for ideas on what to look for.)
- It’s okay to relax your expectations. (See Insider’s resource on how to support students.)
- Relationships are critical. Make sure to spend time connecting with your student. (See Greater Good’s list of strategies for a supportive relationship with your teen.)