Loretta Jones: Mental health supports are needed…for the entire family

March 29, 2021

As the city works to recover from COVID-19, PAVE parent leaders are calling for increased mental-health support funding with $6.4 million for expanded programming to at least 80 public schools, $4 million for community providers, and $10.8 million for social-emotional learning and trauma-informed training.

Mental health needs among children and families were present before COVID-19. Now with the onset of the pandemic, these needs are both being exacerbated and are impossible to ignore.

Before, children went to school, parents went to work, and it was easy to say ‘I’ll deal with it later,’ ‘I need to cook dinner,’ ‘he has homework to do,’ or ‘it’s bedtime.’ Soon enough, it was never addressed. Now, we have no choice but to face it and address it. But we don’t know how to.

As schools expand mental health services, the city must remember the needs of the immediate family and household, and expand support to the entire family. In doing so, families will get support, but also student needs can actually be met.

Consider this: Too many DC students are struggling through the stress of the pandemic, and if a student has a mental health need, it is very possible that the parent or family member is experiencing that same need. The parent or family member will not be able to help their child if they aren’t also given the necessary support. In other words, the mental health supports that the child is receiving won’t go anywhere unless the whole household gets support.

If the entire family gets support, there will be a stronger bond between child and parent or family member. The goal is to eventually be able to have tough conversations without a professional needing to be present.

Expanded mental health supports for families also allows parents to recognize what their children are going through, what their actions mean, and to see when their children are struggling. With these supports, parents and family members can know what to do and can respond appropriately when a child pushes back or closes off.

There are many ways schools can provide support: from talk, to group, to art, and more. Our children and families need support. It’s up to schools to deliver it.

By Loretta Jones, Ward 8 parent leader

PAVE parent leaders’ #ParentPriorities for the upcoming budget call for funding for school-based mental health supports, including $6.4 million to expand school-based mental health to at least 80 more public schools, $4 million for community providers, and $10.8 million for social emotional learning and trauma-informed training.