View From SD73: Remember the mental wellness checks

As a school district, we are all trying to navigate through the uncertainty of this global pandemic.

The beginning of the 2020-2021 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.

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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 people 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. 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 home-schooled, has chosen to have your students engage in online learning or has decided to have your students 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 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 affect our mental wellness.

These changes have occurred out of the requirement to physically 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 help in feeling more connected and less isolated.

Self-care, including regular exercise, well balanced meals and plenty of sleep, will assist in addressing 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 asked Katherine Gulley, a private practice clinical counsellor and former Child and Youth Mental Health team leader to lead parent outreach sessions this past September and May.

The May session was entitled Parent Coping Skills for the Pandemic. 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 at sd73.bc.ca.

Heather Grieve is a Kamloops-Thompson school trustee. School district columns appear monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. Contact Grieve by email at hgrieve@sd73.bc.ca. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

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