COVID concerns fade, but mental health issues persist ahead of new school year
Kids are experiencing what no other generation has before - depression from cyberbullying, isolation after COVID-19 pulled them out of the classroom and fear of getting killed in school in a mass shooting.
Earlier this year, two Poughkeepsie children threatened the city, which put fear in many parents and students. This comes after 19 students and two children were killed in Uvalde, Texas in May.
Poughkeepsie Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser created a panel where students in sixth through 12th grade could seek help.
"They were wanting more opportunities to be able to have conversations with trusted adults that could then help them navigate through what they were dealing with," says Rosser.
His team applied for - and were awarded - a $2.3 million state grant to expand mental health services for students and their families.
They plan to create social emotional resource centers at the middle and high schools.
"We will be working with a number of community-based partners, mental health providers to make sure that not only are receiving the supports that they need during the school day, but just as importantly…that they're receiving supports beyond the school day," says Rosser.
Kris Ruby, president of the Ruby Media Grup, says schools, police and parents need to also confront cyberbullying head on.
"Children are using social media as a means to demean, embarrass and cause psychological harm," says Ruby. "We've seen this result in suicide and these are young kids."
Ruby says the key is trust and support.
"I can imagine a lot of people would be afraid and embarrassed and ashamed because of the things that are written about them so there has to be a measure of psychological safety...So that the person can feel safe enough that there's going to be support if they say that," says Ruby.
Dr. Eric Byrne, the president of the Council Representing all public-school districts in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess and Rockland counties. says schools are tweaking their plans to address safety and mental health support from all angles.
"One thing that is really important for us to know as schools…is that every child needs to have an adult and other student that they feel connected to, that makes them feel safe when they're at school," says Byrne.