SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a statewide program in response to the growing mental health challenges faced by students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we recognize the impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of our school communities, we know that this important work takes partnership and collaboration from steadfast partners who are dedicated to help our most vulnerable children, youth, and staff,” Thurmond said in a release Wednesday.
The program is called Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth and it provides educators and schools across California strategies to build safe and trusted spaces for K-12 students.
Thurmond said that he and the California Department of Education both recognize that the pandemic has impacted the lives of Californians by causing anxiety, grief and stress throughout schools across the state.
“Data show that depression and anxiety among children and youth has doubled globally since the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s Surgeon General. “And we know that the same stress that leads to negative mental health outcomes can also lead to negative physical health outcomes now and in the future.”
During 2020, pediatric psychiatrists reported seeing children with coronavirus-related phobias, tics and eating disorders, obsessing about infection, scrubbing their hands raw, covering their bodies with disinfectant gel and terrified of getting sick from food.
Doctors also said children are suffering panic attacks, heart palpitations and other symptoms of mental anguish, as well as chronic addictions to mobile devices and computer screens that have become their caretakers, teachers and entertainers during lockdowns, curfews and school closures.
Based on research and neuroscience, the film-based program will support mental health by showing how trusted relationships are the most potent remedy to the damaging effects of stress and trauma.
The film features experts in trauma-informed education, equity and innovation in education, and shares messages about hope and opportunity.
“A Trusted Space and the accompanying easy-to-use curriculum will help educators and staff—including bus drivers, teachers, and administrators—feel heard, validated, and supported and will provide strategies for schools to be better equipped to support the students they serve,” Thurmond explained.
Working with CalHope, Department of Education officials will also provide a 60-minute professional development program designed to help teachers and other youth leaders to work with students to create a trusted atmosphere where both learning and healing can happen.
The program will feature a 40-minute film featuring educational experts who provide guidance on how to create a trusted space within five days. This program will be free to all K-12 California educators, school staff, and youth-serving adults.
“Our CalHOPE Student Support Initiative is helping to advance positive social and emotional learning environments in our school communities, both in-person and virtual,” said Dr. Jim Kooler, CalHOPE Program Director. “A Trusted Space will help our cause as we continue supporting children, youth, families, and teachers during the public health emergency.”
To register for this free program, tap or click here.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.