“I highly recommend to any clinicians right now, any group work you can do with students is the most important work you can do right now, just so that kids are seeing other faces.”Jessica Chock-Goldman
Teachers and school counselors are calling them social skills workshops, mental health check-ins, or coping skills workshops. During COVID-19 they’ve been a critical connector.
You might think middle and high school kids wouldn’t be logging into these sessions. But they are. And according to those I’ve interviewed for the book I’m writing, the students are tuning in. Eagerly.
This was too important not to share right now.
One school counselor in New York, Jessica Chock-Goldman, LCSW said mostly boys are tuning into hers and she’s not surprised because girls reach out to each other routinely. At her public school of 3,400, it’s a high achieving population of mostly Asian Americans.
“Adolescence is a time where kids want to break free from their parents. And COVID-19 has made it so that they’re enmeshed right now. Kids are feeling very lonely, even though they are with their parents because they’re not with their peers. So this loneliness factor has been, for at least in my population, one of the biggest predictors of suicidal ideation and attempt–the loneliness factor. You know, it’s just, it’s hard. So I run a twice a week coping skills group–mostly boys which actually makes sense because girls communicate more with each other with texting and all of that, whereas boys, and especially ones who are a little more withdrawn, love these social skills groups. They give each other pointers and advice about what they were doing, which I felt was actually vital for them to do.”
“That said, kids were pretty open about having [suicidal] ideation like it was across the board that there was, mild ideation. And so what I will say is in this coping skills group, we will talk about that, about just kind of how to kind of normalize that the loneliness sometimes makes you have some ideation. I highly recommend to any clinicians right now, any group work you can do with students is the most important work you can do right now, just so that kids are seeing other faces.”
Jessica also pointed out that kids who are usually the most high risk will not be on the zoom sessions with their faces in class. They will usually not have a picture and either miss or sleep through class and since they are not on video, no one knows.
So her school has started sending students surveys to ask how they are doing, to rate on a scale of one to ten how they are feeling twice a semester to check-in. That’s how they’ve been able to weed out the kids who are higher on the scale of showing that they’re having more depressive symptoms more anxiety symptoms and therefore higher at risk.
She emphasizes that it’s a way for the school’s student care team to reach all students and that finding ways to communicate with all kids is vital right now because the kids who are at the most high risk are not calling in.
So if you have students in school or are a teacher or a counselor do share this post because counselors across the country have sent a lot of kids for assessment and to hospitals at the end of June 2020 during COVID and continue to do so. But those surveys are what helped Jessica and her team identify those students who needed help.