Good News Report contains student mental health update

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 15, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — With Grosse Pointe Public School System staff and parents concerned with how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students, Superintendent Gary Niehaus asked district communications coordinator Mary Anne Brush for an update on their overall mental health.

At the May 10 Board of Education meeting held at Brownell Middle School, Brush presented a mental health update during her Good News Report. The district’s mental health team consists of social workers, counselors and psychologists.

The district is offering full-time in-person instruction and 100% online schooling in its GP Virtual program, depending on a family’s wishes. Brush’s report reflected on students in both programs. To collect data, Brush communicated with the mental health staff.

“The No. 1 thing they want you to know, everything they’re doing this year is what they do every year. It’s just more of it,” Brush said. “Their focus is on, one, academics, which includes scheduling; two, careers at the middle school level and college and career preparation at the high school level; and three, social and emotional development at all levels. None of this has gone away during the pandemic. In fact, it has tripled and quadrupled.”

According to the report, the social workers, counselors and psychologists have reached out to students individually struggling with anxiety and feeling disengaged. The mental health team is providing coping skills and self-help strategies. Taking it a step further, they’ve introduced a mental health page on the district’s website at gpschools.org, under the parents tab.

Mental health staff employees have been meeting with outside mental health providers to talk about the broad levels of challenges they’re seeing. A “Coping with COVID” group has been set up to help students with stress.

Information to staff throughout the district on how best to support the students in class during the pandemic is being provided. Teachers and support staff are recognized every weekend through “Sunday Shout-Outs” that highlight their “incredible work.” Professional mental health modules also are available.

The mental health staff also have resources for parents, including a quarterly newsletter. Staff have met with representatives at the Family Center to discuss parenting needs and are developing more programs to help families.

Many school officials thanked Brush for the report, and the mental health staff for what they are doing.

“And I’d also like to give credit to the teachers for the academic atmosphere that they’ve created, because our kids have continued learning,” Board President Joseph Herd said. “I and the rest of the board do appreciate the effort that they’re giving.”

During her report, Brush also gave a brief presentation regarding Teacher Appreciation Week, which was held May 3-7. All week, parents, students and parent teacher organizations distributed treats, flowers, lawn signs, chalk drawings and more to show their appreciation for the district’s educators.

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