Mental Health Resources Available Again

February 14, 2003
Helping children and adults deal with fear and anxiety -- with resources and information developed as a result of the sniper attacks earlier this school year -- is a major element of the school system's response to the national emergency over the potential for terrorist attacks.

Many excellent mental health resources were designed in October 2002 to help students, families, and staff cope with stress, uncertainty, and other mental health issues that occurred over the three weeks of sniper attacks, high-level security, and restricted activities. These resources are once again being made available as the school system addresses new issues and prepares emergency procedures for potential biological, chemical, and/or radiological incidents.

The resources were developed by school system psychologists, pupil personnel workers, guidance counselors, and other staff, in collaboration with the Montgomery County Crisis Center and the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County.

“The stress of a crisis can be a problem for children and adults,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a letter to parents, students, and staff yesterday [Thursday, February 13]. “This is why we work hard to address the emotional, intellectual, physical, and behavioral reactions to stress."

“We know that coping skills can be taught and encouraged,” he said. “For example, people who cope well are often sociable, optimistic, flexible, and in control in managing strong feelings. Children learn such skills by seeing them demonstrated by adults.”

“This means that parents and staff need to be resilient. They can do this by solving problems positively, modeling empathy and tolerance, promoting healthy discussions, and interacting warmly with minimal criticism.”

The resources developed by the school system are available in schools or through the school system's website at the link below. Among the resources available are the “Parent Tips for Helping Children Cope with Tragic Events,” which also has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Each of the translations is available online.

Other resources include information on helping students cope with random community violence, developing resiliency in children in the face of adversity, stress reduction techniques for adults and children, tips for adults in coping with cumulative stress, and other resources. Links to other sources of mental health and emergency preparedness information also are available at the school system's emergency website.

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