ST. LOUIS – Schools in the St. Louis area are recognizing that they are battling more than a health crisis.
The ups and downs of the pandemic are generating high levels of anxiety and depression – the two most common mental health diagnoses in America.
To that end, schools are partnering with counselors to assist students, parents, and teachers.
“Right now, we’re all facing the same, major stressor. And that’s COVID,” said Tom Duff, LCSW and Executive Director of St. Louis Counseling.
St. Louis Counseling works year-round with more than 120 schools, both public and private, in the metropolitan area. But Duff said demand has heightened as families try to navigate through the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.
“The anticipatory anxiety can really take a hold of us and cause of a lot of fear. We try to teach techniques for everyone and how to manage that,” Duff said.
“Sometimes that’s journaling. Getting all those thoughts out. All those worries. But then when you get those out, so you’re also trying to look at, what’s the positive thing that can happen as well, too. What is the positive aspect of this? Understanding that that’s what we’re going into, is a big part of that. That communication is key.”
Our Lady of Lourdes School in University City is among the schools involved in a partnership with St. Louis Counseling.
A counselor comes on site to the school two days a week to work with students in large groups and as individuals, Principal Amie Koenen said.
“Things like anxiety, students who have increased levels of concern, students who have parents who are home who are ill, students who parents work in health care, who are worried.” Koenen said.
Prior to the start of the 2020-2021 school year, counselors also worked with teachers ahead of time.
Koenen said self-care training for teachers is invaluable.
“Because it’s new for us to be in this world, too. So, for us to be face to face with this new reality, we need to learn how to care for ourselves, as well,” she said.
St. Louis Counseling has been working with parents, teachers in staff in person and virtually, Duff said.
St. Louis Counseling also offers online resources to help families cope during COVID-19: