Coronavirus: Schools ramp up mental health resources for students amid distance learning

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Schools are ramping up mental health resources as students across the Central Valley struggle with isolation amid distance learning.

"Last (school) year, we were anticipating an increase in depression and anxiety since COVID," said Fresno Unified Director of Student Support Services, Caine Christensen.

It's been months since students have stepped inside a classroom, causing many to feel isolated.

"Distance learning has created some distinct challenges in supporting students in their social and emotional wellness," said Clovis Unified lead psychologist, David Weber.

It's causing concern about anxiety, depression and even suicide.

"If a student is struggling and needs immediate help, it's a lot more difficult to do that virtually," explained Weber.

Without seeing kids in the classroom, staff members are finding new ways to determine if a student is struggling.

"Maybe they haven't shown up for a zoom session for a couple days, maybe they're not participating like they usually would," said Weber. "A lot of times it's us reaching out to students."

Fresno Unified is using Gaggle, an online tool looking for anything outside the virtual classroom that may cause concern.

"When messages like, I want to die, I'm depressed, I want to kill myself when those types of messages come through," said Christensen. "Our district has created an after-hours mental health response team because we know a lot of kids are messaging after hours."

Clovis Unified also has a staff committed to combating crisis.

"We have counselors, we have mental health support providers, we have school psychologists, so connecting kids with that team of people," said Weber.

They're asking families to be on the lookout for any noticeable changes in students' behavior.

"All of a sudden, they begin to isolate, lose interest in the things they're normally interested in, they stay away from friends," said Weber.

If you're interested in learning more about the resources available to students visit Fresno Unified and Clovis Unified websites.
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.