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Helping students with mental health

Local News

Harley School Counselor Shelli Reetz discussed strategies for helping students with their mental health and stress Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

When it comes to student stress and anxiety, Reetz said data indicates that students are facing an increase for a variety of reasons. “There is an influence of social media and the comparison that students have, one to another, in a much larger context than they have in the past,” she said. “Additionally, you know, they have access to much more information and news that can be stressful – fear of school violence, a variety of topics that students are having to navigate and deal with in increased numbers than what they did in the past.”

This is a challenge educators at The Harley School are proactively addressing. “Fortunately, New York State is a leader in this area with mental health education law,” Reetz said. “So we at The Harley School are very happy and willing to include all of that in our instruction. It starts at the very earliest ages, in our nursery program, up through the Upper School, at all levels, working with social-emotional learning. The counselors in the Lower and Middle School have implemented a multi-tier system of support, which means that we partner with classroom teachers so that all students are learning topics of self-awareness, self-regulation, social relationships, sound decision-making processes. And then we also work with those who might have more needs in small groups or individually. In the Upper School, there’s a peer-led support group for students dealing with stress and anxiety, and that’s what I would say really separates The Harley School in a way, that we include students in the conversation. So not only do we help guide them in their learning, but we’re listening to what they need and responding accordingly.”

Reetz said there are steps parents can take to help their children as well. “First and foremost, thinking about mental health as part of wellness. We all have mental health and so normalizing that and having it included in part of our natural conversations is important. Thinking about mental health in similar ways to what we think about physical health for our children. Checking and talking with the pediatrician about any behavior changes that concern us to get their input. Working with the resources available to us as parents at school. Talking with the teachers, school counselors, school leaders. If we have concerns or notice changes in our children that we’re unsure – is this a normal response for their developmental phase and process, or is this something that we need to be more concerned about? There’s also a really helpful resource in New York State, the Mental Health Association of New York State.

The website is MHANYS.org.

To see our full conversation with Shelli Reetz, click the link below.

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