Schools hope to improve wellbeing of students by offering needed assistance
EAST GREENWICH — School Committee member Carolyn Mark, who also helps lead the Health and Wellness Committee, introduced a revised version of the proposed mental health policy at the School Committee’s June 18 meeting at Cole Middle School.
Mark said the policy, which wasn’t formally voted on by the other members of the School Committee, was a reiteration of the East Greenwich School District’s commitment to fostering mental health for both the students and staff. She also gave credit to Bob Houghtaling, the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, and other parents and mental health professionals within the community.
“Whereas mental health is essential to a child’s growth, development and capacity to learn, the East Greenwich School District shall establish and maintain a learning environment that fosters the mental, behavioral, social and emotional wellbeing of students and staff,” the mission statement of the policy says, as read by Mark.
Within its introduction, the policy states that students are often confronted with “a myriad of issues that can impede their social, emotional and academic development.” The introduction also lists those issues, which include stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, bullying, gender expression and special needs, all of which could “significantly impact students as they seek to define their roles in society.”
“It is the commitment of the East Greenwich School District that these individuals who struggle with mental health issues, or who are at risk of developing issues, be afforded every opportunity for success,” the introduction states. “This policy is designed to ensure that the [School] District is actively working to identify and address mental health issues confronting students and to equip youth and families with the skills and support they need to be successful while continuing to develop an atmosphere that promotes mental health for all students.”
The policy lists four specific goals and objectives so the implementation of the School District’s mental health policy will be effective and also facilitate collaboration among various stakeholders.
The “Education and Outreach” goal states the District shall “disseminate information regarding mental health issues affecting today’s youth” and support “age-appropriate, curriculum-based initiatives” to promote development in critical thinking, coping strategies, life skills and raise awareness while decreasing stigma among youth about mental health issues. The goal also states the District will promote a “sense of community” within the schools by ensuring the students are afforded the opportunity to participate in extra-curricular activities. Having the District view youth, parents and families as “partners” in ensuring mental health of all students, and the District working collaboratively with relevant boards and committees whose purpose is to promote mental health are also within the “Education and Outreach” goal.
For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the June 27 issue of the East Greenwich Pendulum.