Mental health conditions impact one in six children, and that number may increase during a community crisis such as the current Covid-19 pandemic.
With that in mind, Dallas ISD is ramping up efforts to provide mental health services and focus on social and emotional learning when the school year virtually starts on Sept. 8.
The Dallas ISD Mental Health Services team of licensed mental health clinicians include psychologists, therapists, social workers, and psychiatrists. They work with students with challenges such as anxiety, depression and behavior concerns. The department is hiring 53 additional licensed mental health clinicians to increase services to schools and provide mental health support to students and their families.
“We want people to understand that they are not alone,” said Director of Mental Health Services Dianna Smoot. “This is a difficult time for so many, and we encourage anyone struggling with challenges such as depression and anxiety to reach out to us for support.”
Mental Health Services currently offers 100-percent virtual mental health services, including assessment, counseling, and psychiatric services. Families can call the Mental Health Services Department at 972-502-4190 or contact their student’s counselor once school beings to set up an appointment or learn more.
Leading up to the start of school, every Dallas ISD teacher and staff member will train in trauma-informed care. This will better prepare educators and staff members on how to empathetically support students experiencing trauma.
“There is a lot of loss right now, whether that is the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, and the loss of normalcy caused by the pandemic,” Smoot added. “I know everyone here in Dallas ISD and on the Mental Health Services team is eager to jump in and help our students and families however we can.”
Visit the Mental Health Services website at www.dallasisd.org/mentalhealth.
Social and emotional learning focus for virtual start to the school year
Meanwhile, Dallas ISD is building social and emotional learning practices into each school day when classes virtually begin on Sept. 8. Each school day will have time built in for students and teachers to connect on a personal level, gauge how everyone is doing emotionally, and bring different concerns or thoughts to the table that might not otherwise get brought up during the normal school day.
“There are really good practices that our teachers will use during distance learning to personally and emotionally connect with their students, which is always important, but especially so during a time of crisis such as this pandemic,” said Dallas ISD SEL Project Manager Jane Santa Cruz.
The Dallas ISD SEL Department has developed a webpage of resources for educators and families on mindfulness practices, self-care tips and ways to promote collaboration and build healthy teams.