CHESHIRE — During the pandemic, students have been forced to deal with a lot.
Whether it has been remote learning, canceled activities, in-school safety precautions, or the need to quarantine, it has been a year of upheaval for most youngsters.
All of that change has had a worrying impact on mental health. In response, officials are set to offer a special program.
On Wednesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., a special mental health first aid training class will be offered by the town’s Human Services Department. The session, offered via Zoom, will seek to help families and educators better recognize when someone is struggling and requires help.
Those interested in attending the class must register by today and can do so by visiting www.virtualmen-talhealthfirstaidtraining.eventbrite.com.
Michelle Piccerillo, head of the Human Services Department, felt it was a good time to hold the class.
“There is a huge crisis going on now and this class can arm teachers, parents, really anyone who deals with kids on a regular basis, with the tools to identify if someone they love is going through a mental health crisis,” Piccerillo said.
The class will teach participants how to recognize and address a mental health crisis.
“The biggest indicator (that someone is suffering) is a marked change in behavior, of any kind,” Piccerillo advised. “If a student is normally one way, and you begin to notice drastic behavior and personality changes, that usually means something is going on. Signs like social isolation, decreased school performance, confusion and disorganization can all be signs that the child is struggling.”
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan said it will be good for people to familiarize themselves with what to look for when it comes to the emotional issues of young people.
“Student mental health is always important, but it is certainly magnified during a protracted stressor like COVID-19,” said Solan. “Thankfully, the vast majority of our students are attending school in person and frequently so that we can better monitor how they are managing.”
As students begin to phase back into the regular school day, Solan and his staff will be ready to address mental health issues.
“Our mental health professionals meet regularly and monitor significant shifts in student attendance, grades, and social interactions to provide interventions,” he explained.
In the end, Piccerrillo hopes that the class will provide a jumping-off point for many in the community to begin to identify problems.
“The class does require some pre-work before the actual event…but the training will be an interactive virtual training where people can ask questions,” Piccerillo said.