The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the importance of mental health.
“Kids are bringing in their pencils and their binders but in that backpack also they’re bringing in all of their experiences,” Chris Marino, clinical director of outpatient behavioral health services at Community Mental Health Affiliates said.
Marino oversees services offered to kids in the New Britain school district.
“Top priorities for them is socially connecting with one another again,” Marino said.
“Despite them feeling more comfortable in their pajamas or in their bedrooms, they actually wanted to be back,” he added.
“I like being back in the environment. I miss being here so. I miss the staff and the warm welcomes, the principal,” Karmany Neal, a senior at Brookside School, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many students to have to isolate for long periods of time.
“Now it’s like I’m happy to be back,” Neal said.
Two mental health professionals from Community Mental Health Affiliates will be available for the district and its nearly 10,000 students. The funding for the program came from a federal grant.
“Some people are not like willing to talk to people they know. They want to talk to somebody that they don’t know. I don’t know. Because it just feels better to let it all out,” Neal said.
“There’s been stigmas with mental health, right? And putting it out there that this is something that’s going to be acceptable and encouraging in times of need is a great thing,” Jay Miramant, principal at Brookside School, said.
The state is also offering two mental health days for students this year in addition to 10 sick days.
“Hey my student is struggling. It’s not that they have a cold or is sick or under the weather. They’re struggling emotionally,” he said.
“People have their days so we need that,” Neal said of the mental health days.
The COVID-19 pandemic just became the worst pandemic in US history, surpassing the death toll from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.