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Schools make mental health a priority for all students

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University and the Youngstown City School District have taken additional steps to address students’ mental health concerns as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

YSU is increasing mental health services for students, and the city schools have seven full-time school psychologists.

“Our school psychologists play a crucial role in all that we do at YCSD,” schools CEO Justin Jennings said. “The goal is to educate and care for the whole scholar. We need our school psychologists to help to do that.”

The university, meanwhile, has two full-time mental health counselors on campus, but is hiring an additional full-time counselor and at least one part-time counselor to help increase awareness of available services, provide prevention programs and meet the increased mental health needs of students during the pandemic.

YSU also is exploring hiring multiple graduate associates and contracting with a private mental health provider for additional student counseling services.

“The persistence and scope of this deadly disease has caused much stress and anxiety and taken a terrible toll on the mental health of so many across the nation and the world, including college students whose lives both on and off campus have been greatly altered by the pandemic,” Ann Jaronski, director of Student Counseling Services said.

“These additional mental health resources will help our students weather the storm and give them an opportunity to persevere academically and personally during these challenging times.”

YSU also plans to provide more self-help and prevention options, including yoga classes with a psycho-education component, “wellness bags” for students, mobile stress carts and programs. The university also will explore telehealth resources and applications for students dealing with stress, depression, burn-out and other pressures that might interfere with their academic success.

The increased services, paid for through $335,340 in federal funds via the CARES Act, will be available to students as the fall semester concludes on Dec. 12 and into the start of spring semester classes on Jan. 11.

“We know that an anxious or a stressed brain does not learn well,” Jaronski said. “During the pandemic, our students have been more anxious and more stressed. These additional CARES funds targeted for mental health are so necessary for us to help address our students mental health needs and allow them to be better learners and therefore more successful.”

The Youngstown city schools have just wrapped up recognition of National School Psychology Week, with a theme of “The Power of Possibility.”

That theme is particularly significant this year with all of the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, said Linda Yosay, the school district’s chief of student services.

“Our school psychologists are unique professionals who have knowledge of learning, development and behavior while having experience in both education and mental health,” she said. “School psychologists provide support to teachers, administrators, scholars and families to strengthen the academic and social-emotional functioning of our scholars.”

news@tribtoday.com

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