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Guidance Letter May 1, 2018

May 1, 2018

 

Dear ADL Parents and Guardians,

 

I hope this letter finds you well. As we head into May, we’d like to acknowledge that it is Mental Health Awareness month, and use this opportunity to send out some important information, observations and resources.

 

In the past few years there has been a steady rise in students who experience symptoms of anxiety and depression across the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the U.S., affecting nearly ⅓ of adolescents and youth. Many experts attribute the rise in anxiety and depression to overuse of technology and social media, family system stressors, and academic pressures. In Vermont, the results of the 2015 YRBS survey given to middle school students, indicated that 14% of our districts’ students have thought about suicide. (Youth Risk Behavior Survey results 2015). With both anxiety and depression so prevalent in our youth and community, we must act on identifying solutions and resources to help increase the resiliency factors needed to thrive and grow. These statistics confirm that we must continue to work to ensure our students know we are here first and foremost for their well-being and support.

 

As a community we are working hard to educate students, parents/guardians, and school personnel to identify symptoms and signs of anxiety and depression. We do know that if a student has a trusted adult in their lives they can talk to, there is an increased likelihood that an intervention can work. We must work together to ensure that students have adults they can trust both at home and at school.

 

It is also important that we teach students to be aware of the language they use around stress and depression. In schools, it is not uncommon to hear students saying “I want to kill myself” or “I just don’t want to be here anymore.” These comments are also often being made over social media apps and are often brought to our attention by a concerned peer. The majority of the time, the student is not suicidal, but does not yet have the skill-set needed to articulate their feelings or access the coping strategies needed to handle the situation alone. At  ADL, we take EVERY comment or report of this type very seriously, and make a point to address and asses the students motivation for making these comments. We continue to work with students on how to accurately describe how they are feeling and to identify coping strategies that they can use to self-regulate.

 

As parents ourselves, we recognize that life is busy and sometimes we need help or reminders about how to support our children during this developmental milestone of adolescence. As the weather improves, we hope that you can encourage your student to spend time outside being active. Exercise is a proven way to cope with negative feelings and improve mental health. In addition, setting limits around screen time and electronics along with an early bedtime are best practices that should be encouraged. It is also important to monitor social media use as best as possible. Many situations that are brought to our attention arise from interactions that transpire online.  Finally, as summer approaches it is now the time to think about enrolling your student in summer camps and activities to allow for continued structure and engagement in the summer months. We have provided a list of valuable resources that we hope will encourage conversation between you and your child around building resiliency and independence.

 

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us.

 

Your ADL School Counselors,

 

Nicole Williams and Jessica Librizzi

 

Resources

 

Hands-Off Parenting For Resilient, Resourceful Children

 

25 Ways to Ask Your Kids "So How was School Today?" Without Asking Them "So How was School Today?".

 

How to help your depressed teenager     A great resource that highlights questions, warning signs and treatment recommendations for students experiencing depressive symptoms.

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/.../Childhood-Depression-What-Parents-Can-Do-To-... American Academy of Pediatrics. Invaluable information on the signs and symptoms of depression and what to do about it.

 

UMatter- http://vtspc.org/about-vtspc/umatter     A Vermont suicide prevention resource that anyone can access if they are concerned for their child or another adolescent.

 

First Call - 802 488-4777    Anyone can contact First Call for Chittenden County for help in a crisis or for support or information about community services.

 

 VT 2-1-1  http://www.referweb.net/vermont211    Mutual support groups for parents who share a common characteristic or circumstance such as being single parents, dual career parents, multiple birth parents, parents with children who are out of control, or parents of children with disabilities, who come together for educational and social purposes as well as for mutual support. Meeting formats may include in-person, telephone or Internet options.