One of the outcomes of the pandemic is that many students are struggling with compelling mental health issues that have had significantly negative impact on their personal and educational progress. Since our mental health systems and schools were not prepared for these situations there have been behavioral problems that have had impact on teachers, administrators, parents and students. It has required that educators who have traditionally been somewhat confined to focusing on education to since address mental health issues that have grown in their schools and more specifically in their classrooms.
As we consider ways to help these students overcome their obstacles and become successful, we need to understand the nature of their needs and how to address those needs proactively.
If we are going to be effective in our interventions, struggling students need to be identified, assessed and have access to the supports they need.
As an example, Lakeside provides trauma-informed counselors daily to our regional school districts who reside within the district. Our counselors are available to help students with their personal or academic struggles. They help them cope with their anxiety and continue to make progress with their schoolwork and relationships with staff and students. Over 5000 students regionally are engaged with our staff who help them remain in their home school successfully.
If these students are unable to maintain stability in their school, Lakeside also offers opportunities for them to attend one of our 4 therapeutic schools. Our school districts pay the educational expense for these students to be enrolled in our programs that have trauma trained teachers, counselors and behavior managers. Our compassionate staff build strong relationships with these students and teach them about their brain, their choices, their opportunities, helping them get through the school year successfully. The environment features smaller classrooms, strong relationships, counseling opportunities and a very safe environment for students to understand what happened to them and how to process their struggles to find success in their school and personal lives.
Even if students are unable to maintain their standing in our schools, Lakeside also provides a Mobile Support Program that will meet students anywhere in various communities to provide tutoring, counseling or both as needed. For students who struggle to maintain the rigidity of school schedules and demands, this program allows them to continue their progress and find ways to complete their education while getting caring clinical support.
A “one size fits all” approach to meeting the needs of students is not effective. If we are going to help students with diverse needs become successful, we need a continuum of services that will close the gaps that students who have significant needs tend to fall through. In dealing with thousands of students in our region, we have found that this continuum is effective because it is contextual, relational, professional and compassionate. This kind of continuum is key to helping students who are struggling have opportunities to succeed. If we are going to deal with the impact of the mental health crisis among our students, we need to provide students with every opportunity to succeed, grow and have a future they can look forward to. Imagine if every region in our country provided that level of support for students! This kind of approach could be the answer to the prominent mental health issues that we face as a nation.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO
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