The Phoenix

It truly takes a village to help with mental health issues

- By Marybeth Torchia Superinten­dent, Boyertown Area School District

We have all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” When I was growing up, my village consisted of my family, friends, and neighbors — trusted names and faces.

Looking back, I felt safe. I remember turning a piece of chalk and a penny into hopscotch and riding my bike. When the streetligh­ts came on, I went inside. My hand-held devices were a book and a flashlight used while reading under the covers. I took a typing class with 10 fingers, not just two thumbs and not on a keyboard attached to the internet but on a Smith Corona typewriter. Thankfully, I do not recall worry, anxiety, or stress.

Today, a child’s village is often the entire world, all at one time and through a fully interactiv­e tech device. Children are hit with a barrage of informatio­n once deemed “for adults only.” They have access to that informatio­n before the trusted adults in their lives have time to process it and discuss it with them. Sometimes, they do not even realize who those trusted adults are. There is an ever-increasing pressure to work more, play less, and respond instantly.

Students’ lives often include online “friends” without faces who live “somewhere” and number in the hundreds. Conflictin­g “facts” exist at every turn. Home lives can be complicate­d. Their peer conversati­ons include subjects that many are ill-equipped to handle. With all of this comes an increasing concern for the mental health of our students.

For anyone who works in education, mental health is at the forefront of our days. A growing number of children are struggling, do not know where to turn, and are afraid to ask for help. We are constantly watching for signs of distress.

School districts cannot do it alone. Tackling mental health requires a collaborat­ion of trusted adults within a child’s unique environmen­t. As parents, educators and communitie­s, we need to work together. Those who know a child best must proactivel­y and compassion­ately reach out to one another with concerns. We need to be willing to be the first to say something. Tackling mental health demands courage and a collaborat­ive plan.

Together, as caring adults, we need to observe interactio­ns and reactions and monitor patterns of frustratio­n and self-deprecatio­n. We need to be drawn to the child whose head is down. We need to listen to students without a voice and those who speak the loudest. We need to ask, ask, and keep asking, “Are you OK?” — in every different way we know how.

We need to listen to the answers, observe the body language, watch facial expression­s and hear what is never said. We need to trust our instincts. We have to take it all in and open the lines of communicat­ion.

Public school districts have resources at their disposal. We are here to help and will look to you for help in return. We will fully engage our resources. We will share those resources and assist you while interactin­g with them.

For those in need, here is a list of available resources to get you started:

• Safe2Say Something: 1-844-Safe2SayPa or • Creative Health Services: 484-941-0500 or info@

• Berks County Mobile Crisis: 610-236-0530 or Text ruOK:to 484-816-ruOK (7865)

• Montgomery County Mobile Crisis: 1-855-634-HOPE (4673)

This list is by no means comprehens­ive. Call your school district if you suspect your child needs help. Talk to your primary care physician, a pastor or a trusted friend. Please, talk to someone.

Mental health requires constant attention and extends beyond our children. We need to keep ourselves engaged. Ask, ask, and keep asking. Listen and collaborat­e. Offer help, even when it appears unwanted. Please, value one another by asking the hard questions, pursuing solutions, and finding resources. Most importantl­y, never stop!

 ?? ?? Torchia

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