State Department of Education links with online emotional health platform

You’re late again on the mortgage.

Once again, you’ve got too many bills — and not enough paycheck. You don’t want to say it out loud, but losing the house is looking like a real possibility.

If you think that litany of stressors is coming from an adult hunkered down at the kitchen table at the end of the month, think again.

All of the above is a composite of angst, created by Monongalia County students last fall.

The students, spanning 3rd grade to senior year, were responding to the annual Panorama survey, a national program used by Mon Schools, which charts emotional health among students and teachers.

“Think about a 3rd– or 4th– or 5th-grader worrying about paying bills,” Michael Ryan said.

In terms of dealing with the emotional health of its students, Mon Schools fares better than most of the Mountain State’s 55 other public districts.

Ryan, who was West Virginia’s School Counselor of the Year for 2018, now directs diversity and inclusion services for the local district.

Under the umbrella of his department, those services also include tending to mental health concerns of the children and teenagers who fill Mon’s public classrooms daily.

Along those lines, the West Virginia Department of Education announced Wednesday that it’s linking with ParentGuidance.org — a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, social platform featuring online sessions with behavioral health coaches and licensed therapists.

Parents and caregivers logging on will also have full access to “Ask a Therapist,” the site’s question-and-answer forum that is regularly updated.

State Schools Superintendent Michelle Blatt echoed those above responses from Mon’s students, when she talked about the dynamics that make shopping around for such a service, she said, such a critical necessity.  

From bullying to the specter of gun violence in the main hallway, it can get scary in America’s schools, the superintendent said. Then there are often issues at home to contend with.

“Our educators are experiencing mental health indicators in our children,” Blatt noted, “that they have not seen previously.”

This, in a state, she said, where some 700,000 residents live in communities where there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals to go around.

In Mon County, Ryan said a lot comes down to the pandemic demarcation line: before COVD versus after COVID.

“You always hear that ‘things will never be the same again,’” as he says frequently.

“Well, they shouldn’t be,” he’ll add. “Because we’re learning. We can take the good and use it.”  

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