SHIELD Launches Series to Address Child Mental Health in Schools
The nine-part, multi-disciplinary series for school health professionals will begin on Wednesday, September 22 and will run through February 2022.
Since its emergence in the early months of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on mental health in the United States. From sickening millions and claiming the lives of thousands, to millions more losing their jobs and renters and homeowners facing eviction and foreclosures, the ongoing stress, fear, and uncertainty created by the pandemic has weighed heavy on all.
For many school-aged children, these factors combined with the interruption of school and other essential physical and social supports have left many concerned about how to address this new wave of child trauma and mental health concerns.
As schools begin to resume in-person learning this fall, the School Health Institute for Education and Leadership Development (SHIELD), which is housed in the Office of Lifelong Learning at the School of Public Health, is launching a nine-part, multi-disciplinary series for school health professionals (SHPs) on supporting the mental health needs of all students. The virtual series will begin on Wednesday, September 22 and will run through February 2022.
“Even before the pandemic, the mental health needs of school-aged children have been continually growing, with mental health visits accounting for a larger proportion of student encounters with school nurses and other SHPs,” says Beverly Heinze-Lacey, director of SHIELD. “As our communities navigate months of collective trauma and continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, this will likely increase. Now more than ever, we feel it is critical that SHPs have access to quality resources that will help them to build robust mental health supports for their school communities.”
The training sessions are designed to help SHPs gain a better understanding of what a comprehensive school mental health support system could look like, and cover a variety of topics, including supporting children’s behavioral and mental health needs as they return to school; trauma and it’s impacts on the body, behavior, and school experiences; mental health equity in schools; and supporting student populations that experience disproportionate amounts of trauma, such as LGBTQIA+ youth.
Presenters throughout the sessions will include SPH faculty experts Carol Dolan and Patricia Elliott, clinical associate professors of community health sciences, as well as experts from Boston University School of Medicine, Tufts University, the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) Program, and more.
“Every person has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, but these burdens have not been felt equally across populations,” says Erin Sivak, nurse educator for SHIELD, who has been leading this initiative. “Our goal is to provide SHPs with the necessary skills and information to feel confident in helping students and staff work through their unique experiences and mental health concerns and to create a safe and supportive school environment for all.”
Both Heinze-Lacey and Sivak hope this series enables SHPs to gain a broader understanding of the varied lived experiences and disproportionate burdens of trauma experienced by different students and families throughout the pandemic and how these burdens may show up in the school environment. By the end of the series, they also hope that SHPs are able to view mental health through a health equity lens that they can bring into their practice moving forward.
SHIELD was established in 2016 to update the clinical, management, and leadership skills of school nurses and other school health personnel through innovative educational programs and leadership opportunities. They are funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and partner with Boston University School of Medicine Continuing Medical Education Office to deliver continuing education credits to nurses and other health professionals.
Learn more about SHIELD’s new series, “Supporting Mental Health for All Students,” and register for the first virtual session on Wednesday, September 22, here: https://cme.bu.edu/shield.bu.edu/content/mental-health-series