The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for high school students and their administrators regarding the social isolation that many students are feeling. In some cases, the pandemic has made many adolescents feel lonely, unhappy, and disconnected.
Anyone who has graduated from high school during more normal times can recognize the many important events and learning that kids are missing out on. From school plays and athletics, to clubs, proms and deeper dives into topics that can shape a lifetime or career.
Ridgefield Park High School is making a concerted effort to identify the large number of students who are having significant issues as a result of the pandemic and their participation in virtual learning. To connect with those adolescents who are signaling problems, high school administrators identified students who did well last year, but this year are found to be struggling in their grade performance. By being proactive and addressing their student’s mental health needs, the team at Ridgefield Park High School, spearheaded by Dr. Barry Haines, Director of Curriculum and Operations and Ms. Michele Chiarello Gonzalez, Director of Special Services, hope to make a difference in the academic performance and emotional wellness of students who are feeling stress.
CBH Care is helping tackle adolescent stress and anxiety
Among the complaints students have are heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, which can all contribute to a lack of focus and increased incidence of missing virtual school days. To help Ridgefield Park High School students and administrators get a handle on this problem, CBH Care announced that it will partner with the school by launching a virtual mental health therapeutic program created especially for these students.
Modelled on CBH Care’s therapeutic after-school program New Directions, the goal of the program is to provide a way for students to be able to connect with mental health professionals to get the support and therapy they need and get back on track to complete the year successfully.
“These times have been especially tough on our young people,” said CBH Care Executive Director, Susan Devlin, MA, LPC. “Our New Directions program is a ready-made therapeutic program that’s perfectly suited to try and help these young people get back on track with their education. We must do all we can to help these children get through this time and thrive.”
Schools play a critical role in managing students’ mental health
One of the unintended consequences of mitigation efforts as they relate to COVID and teens is that mental health and overall well-being has suffered during isolation. With schools closed, the opportunities for students to discuss their problems with school counselors or for teachers to notice signs of mental distress in students have been minimized.
CBH Care’s New Directions program is an after-school program for adolescents 12-17 who need a structured therapeutic program to address emotional and behavioral issues. The program’s therapeutic services aim to eliminate the need for more restrictive out-of-home interventions and placements. For the Ridgefield Park High School students, the expectation is CBH Care’s involvement will make it easier for them to access online therapies to help address their mental health needs and get their academics and social wellness headed in the right direction.