Looking out for Mental Wellness During the Pandemic

Posted On Tuesday October 06, 2020

By Heather Grieve, Trustee

October 6, 2020

The commencement of the 2020-21 school year has brought with it changes to the school system that we have not seen before and many of them are challenging our mental wellness. As a school district we are all trying to navigate through the uncertainty of this Global Pandemic.  Traditionally the start of school brings familiar structure and certainty.   As we see in the news daily, society continues to struggle to find a way to cope with the ever changing new normal.  Schools around the globe have been faced with changes and challenges never seen before.  The fact that school is not as it has been in previous years can have a significant impact on students, teachers, parents, support staff and administration.  Pandemics in and of themselves can be stressful.  People may be experiencing strong emotions like anxiety and fear and as the guidelines continue to evolve and change, the impact can be magnified. 

School has started, and even with a new look, has brought with it some structure and some sense of normalcy after months of being at home.  This is positive but we need to continue to monitor mental wellness.  Even though many kids are back in school, what school looks like has changed dramatically and in addition its look is very susceptible to further change depending on what is happening within our schools, district, Province and even beyond.   

Whether you’re a family that has opted to having your students homeschooled, or chosen to have your students engage in online learning, or have decided to have your student attend bricks and mortar school, the impact of the pandemic and change in our learning is being felt.  Some may be grieving what school was and the losses in the school setting are all around us. Changes to structure include things like classes, breaks, extra-curriculars, clubs, sports, theatre, music and graduation.  These are a just a few examples of the many ripples of change that have impacted our schools and may also impact our mental wellness.  These changes have occurred out of the requirement to physical distance and with that physical distancing can come increased isolation.  Mental wellness can be negatively impacted by this isolation.  Connection and communication will be an important part of our path forward and as a school trustee, I have confidence in all those involved that we can continue to work through this together.  Together might just look different.

Students can look to connect through phone calls and video chats that can assist in feeling more connected and less isolated.  Self-care including regular exercise, well balanced meals and plenty of sleep will assist in taking care of both emotional and physical health. 

As part of the district’s commitment to assisting students and parents in taking care of their mental wellness, the district has asked Katherine Gulley, a private practice clinical counsellor and former Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician to lead parent outreach sessions both in May and September.   The May session focused on Parent Coping Skills for the Pandemic and in September the session’s theme was Providing Tools and strategies for Parents to Navigate Uncertainty Brought on by the pandemic.  Both presentations were recorded and are available to view on the Parent Resource page on the SD73 website.

This column appeared in Kamloops This Week: View from SD73 on October 6, 2020

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