Students’ mental health prioritized as COVID carries into new school year


ST. LOUIS – It’s more than back-to-school jitters. Fear, worry, and anxiety are weighing on children as they navigate through the ever-changing world of COVID.

“Social-emotional regulation is essential, always. But even more so during the pandemic,” St. Cecilia Catholic School Principal Emily Roth said.

The school, located in south St. Louis, is gearing up for a return to class Aug. 16. The school has always placed an emphasis on the mental health of staff, students, and families.

But as COVID carries over to another school year, St. Cecilia is making sure all students – not just a select few individuals or groups – are getting attention.

“This year, we are taking a different approach. We are actually going to have class lessons so that everybody benefits from having [a] therapist on staff,” Roth said.

The therapist is a full-time worker with St. Louis Counseling. The organization has seen a demand for its services at area schools, as the toll of COVID on families becomes more prevalent.

Executive Director Tom Duff said it helps that schools and families have already had experience with the pandemic.

While some changes are happening rapid-fire, he says worry, anxiety, and stress remain central themes.

“If you’re feeling anxious, if you’re feeling worried, there’s yoga, there’s breathing, there’s journaling, there’s exercise, sleep, nutrition. All of those things help with individual’s mental health issues,” Duff said.

“A big part of it is helping kids accept change. And learning to be flexible. And when you’re feeling uncomfortable, how do you get comfortable with that? How do you get comfortable with always having to change? A lot of the basic skills of that is walking through the experiences.”

Emergency relief funding has also made it possible for St. Cecilia to hire a part-time social worker. That social worker will work with the therapist to provide emotional support for students and families.

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