Students expressing mental health concerns meet with Springfield school board members

Students expressing mental health concerns meet with Springfield school board members
Students expressing mental health concerns meet with Springfield school board members

SPRINGFIELD – A group of teens concerned about the availability of mental health resources in Springfield public schools recently met one-on-one with two members of the Springfield School Board.

Youth organizers at the Pioneer Valley Project surveyed Springfield students about their experiences with using mental health resources at school.

“Teenagers in the area are still struggling because they never get the help they need,” said 17-year-old Dajah Rose Haith-King.

Tara Parrish, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Project, said last week that the young organizers discussed their data and survey with committee members Latonia Monronelle and Dennis Hirst after speaking with the full committee in March. result.

The Pioneer Valley Project is a grassroots social justice nonprofit organization that empowers youth leadership through training, civic engagement, youth-led organizing, campaigns, and community-building activities.

Shared via social media and flyers containing QR codes, the survey asked students ages 13-19 studying in the Springfield Public School System during the COVID-19 pandemic about their experiences during the pandemic and their return to school. The case for face-to-face learning.

Parrish said more than 250 responses were received within a week and a half.

Essence Burton-Jordan, a 17-year-old organizer, said the survey revealed experiences of anxiety, depression, isolation and loss of a supportive community were common among teenage respondents in the region.

Burton-Jordan added that the group put together surveys to measure mental health needs, as well as how confident students are in the people in their schools who provide services.

About a dozen students initially set out on March 15 to speak at a school board meeting to share their findings. Concerned that students would divulge personal mental health information, officials initially prevented them from speaking at the meeting. Eventually, the students were able to address the committee.

School Superintendent Daniel Warwick also noted at the March meeting that each school has a City Connect program that can refer students to services available beyond the area’s increased mental health services.

Burton-Jordan said during the event that teen organizers don’t think one or two adjustment counselors per school is enough to deal with the crisis at hand, and they fear more students will face suicide if teens don’t get the proper resources Risk speaking out.

At schools like Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, where an adjustment counselor covers 1,300 students, they work primarily with students with special needs. Parrish added that students outside of their cases are rarely able to meet with adjustment boards.

Hearst, a school board member, said in March that it was important for the board to hear directly from students.

While the council has committed resources to providing support, Hurst said she believed the council should take a step back and assess whether the support services provided met the needs of students.

“We need to be open and receptive,” Hurst said. “There are many ways to access mental health care. School boards have a responsibility to provide families and students with what they need.”

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