County Executive George Latimer (moderator left) with DCMH Mental Health Service Program Coordinator Tori Shaw; Deputy Commissioner, DCMH Joseph Glazer; and White Plains City School District Superintendent Joseph Ricca.
By Stephen E. Lipken
County Executive George Latimer presented a you tube conversation, “COVID-19, Mental Health and Our Kids,” guidelines for students returning to school on Wednesday, September 1st.
Latimer was joined by Joseph Glazer, Deputy Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH); DCMH Mental Health Services Program Coordinator Tori Shaw and White Plains City School District Superintendent Joseph Ricca.
“Back to school this year is going to look very different from any year that we have experienced,” Latimer observed, putting together a couple of kids’ Public Service Announcements (PSA) featuring Playland’s dragon mascot “Coaster” and Bee Line’s “Bee.”
Latimer instructed children to loop masks over their ears, keeping face, mouth and nose covered. “You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Time yourself by singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.
“If you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer. ‘Social distancing’ means that we have to keep at least six feet apart from each other. When you see your friends for the first time, you might want to give them a hug or ‘high five,’ but try not to. Germs can spread easier when you are closer together.”
“We’re expecting to see a number of mental health issues, relating to quarantine and ongoing stress that families have been experiencing, whether it be feelings of detachment or being alone, uncertain, looming…fear,” Ricca stressed. “We want to make sure that caring professionals are available to children and adults.”
“We want to come prepared with patience, with empathy and really expecting that families will have experienced loss,” Shaw added. “Families may come in highly anxious. We may see kids, teachers and parents more sensitive to stress than they have been previously.”
“We need to understand that for families, expectations need to be different than they were when we started school last year,” Glazer noted, pointing to the Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) Mental Health First Aid program, partnering with Northern/Southern Westchester BOCES, action plans equipping adults to help youth and Special Needs students experiencing mental health challenges.
Youth Mental Health First Aid Training is a nationally recognized eight-hour certification course that:
• Offers a 5-step action plan that equips adults to help youth experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
• Teaches unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health challenges common among adolescents, ages 12 to 18.
• De-stigmatizes mental issues so youth receive the help they need at the earliest possible time.
For further information about upcoming trainings and/or to coordinate training for your organization, please contact Paula Santa-Donato at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-761-0600, Extension 322. WJCS is located on 845 Broadway, White Plains, NY 10603; 914-761-0600; www.wjcs.com.