School work is village work. Mental health is part of overall health. In order to learn or teach, you need to be healthy enough to do so. In my prior columns, I have pointed out how art can transform and even save lives, improve resilience, and allow us to respond to this ongoing pandemic. We at AHB are proud of the Arts in Education program that brings art residencies into the public school system to enhance and support classroom teachers.
We know that art can contribute to mental health. I am worried that as much as students, parents, and teachers love the Arts in Ed program, it needs the support of the village now more than ever right now because of the oversized demands being placed on educators. Arts in Ed not only enriches the education of our children, it also has the potential to free time up so that educators can catch their breath and plan their lessons.
Despite my retirement from my practice of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I continue to sit in on the Schools Committee meetings of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The pandemic has highlighted both the educational disparities as well as mental health consequences for schools, families and communities multiplied greatly for black and brown children, LGBTQ youth, students with disabilities, and students who are economically disadvantaged.
I hear from parents with school aged children, that teachers in the Bainbridge Island school district are rising to the occasion and doing a heroic job making things work. However, mental health professionals across the US who work within the school systems tell us that educators are extremely stressed by the overwhelming demands of managing virtual learning during the pandemic and even more stressed when they have to balance virtual learning combined with in person learning, part of the hybrid model which may return to our local school districts in the months ahead. In response, Jeff Bostic, MD, a noted Child Psychiatrist, has developed a wellness curriculum and workbook for teachers that he has made available at no cost.
So what is AHB doing about all of this? We have beefed up the resources for arts opportunities for students and parents on our Arts in Education page of Currents. AHB is initiating a Virtual Vibes campaign to enhance student engagement. Stay tuned to learn more about Virtual Vibes. We are reaching out to our talented teaching artists to develop Arts in Ed videos that can be shared with faculty in the school system. We are acknowledging that teachers need some time to pause and determine their needs in the classroom with hopes that we can do even more some time after January.
Such opportunities for creative expression are exactly what is needed during this pandemic. The Arts in Ed program is one way to ensure, teachers have the extra support they need.
Here are a few resources that may help:
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
WISE Teacher Well-Being Workbook
Maintaining Mental Health During Coronavirus
Talking With Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Children and Schools Resource Center
National Center for School Mental Health
School Mental Health: How Can We Equalize the Playing Field Amidst COVID19
Linda Semlitz, MD Child Psychiatrist. Linda is a retired child psychiatrist who maintained a private practice in Child Psychiatry on Bainbridge Island. She lived and worked in Asia from 1995 – 2014. During that time she worked as a Medical Director and Director of Medical Affairs for Merck, Sharpe and Dohme, a pharmaceutical non-profit mental health organization in Tokyo that provided mental health treatment and disaster response after the 3/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. She currently serves on the board of the Global Fund for Mental Health. She joined the AHB Board of Directors in 2017.