Fairfax County schools emphasizing mental health resources for students

This story is part of “Parenting in a Pandemic,” WTOP’s continuing coverage of how parents are dealing with child care, schooling and more through the coronavirus pandemic.

Caught in the middle of a pandemic, most children are now going to learn from home, missing friends and regular school activities.

While the situation could take an emotional toll on kids, the Fairfax County, Virginia, school system is promising to provide adequate mental health support to students who need it.

“All of our Fairfax County Public Schools have at least one school counselor, school psychologist and school social worker, and they are there to support families, to support students, and we are just a phone call away,” said Bethany Koszelak, school psychologist for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Koszelak joined School Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand for an online town-hall style meeting Wednesday night devoted to a discussion on mental health wellness, challenges created by the pandemic and the public health requirement that is forcing nearly all students into distance learning.

“The first day of school is not about covering the syllabus, but it’s about connecting with every child … so that we can have a positive start to the school year, the connection is so important,” said Brabrand, who also said he has instructed all teachers to strive to immediately establish strong relationships with their students.

Koszelak explained that everybody can feel down every now and then, but mental health support is needed when students’ daily functioning seems to be adversely impacted.

“Is it impacting our ability to live, laugh and love?” Koszelak said.

Some warning signs Koszelak identified for students who may need emotional support include when kids are struggling to stay engaged with their lessons and when their relationships have been negatively impacted.

Other signs are when kids are withdrawing from activities that they have typically enjoyed and when kids are experiencing changes in sleeping or eating patterns.

More Coronavirus News

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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