BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WSAV) – The longer the COVID-19 crisis goes on, the more difficult it is on some people’s mental health.
Teachers and staff in local schools are among those at risk .
Beaufort County Schools are using a new program to battle this growing problem.
It is called #YOUMATTERBCSD.
“This really spawned from an idea of how do we take care of one another in a way that is meaningful,” said Lakinsha Swinton, Beaufort County Schools Director of Student Services.
Beginning this week, district employees can begin attending a series of free in-person or virtual peer group sessions to introduce the new program and explain its features.
Nationwide 46% of teachers and school staff say COVID-19 has affected their mental state.
Beaufort County Schools say it has seen a large increase in the number of people coming to Human Resources for help. Part of why this program is so important.
“How do we take care of one another in a way that is meaningful,” said Swinton. “We know that mental health needs are higher than ever now. We are seeng it in our teachers we are seeing it in our staff, and this was just an opportunity for us to try and meet that need.”
A partnership with Bluffton based Hope Performance Systems, #YouMatterBCSD will offer mental health supports that include peer groups, group counseling as well as individual sessions with licensed counselors.
“It can be almost debilitating for some folks,” explains James Hester of Hope Performance Systems. “High levels of anxiety or depression can start out very simple and then migrate into a serious condition where it can affect your physical well being your mental health, then we have seen it gap out where it can start to affect the families.”
“Our initial phase is to do the peer groups, make it simple, nothing very clinical,” explains Hester. “Very introductory and from there people will hopefully build trust to do one on ones. to do the group counseling.”
Individual Counseling can include anxiety, depression, substance abuse, marriage counseling, adolescent and child family counseling, life coaching, nutritional and wellness counseling and play therapy.
Group sessions can include grief groups, eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma stress, anger management and parenting skills.
“It’s nothing like having people who you are addressing the same type of situation and you are in the same boat,” said Swinton. “So you are able to sit down together whether virtually via zoom or socially distant and talk about your feelings.”
“You might hear from someone else I did this, I tried this technique,” said Hester. “Now all of a sudden you have people who are in the same boat as you have the same struggles same stressers, and this working for me and it could be helpful.”
A counselor will be housed at the District Office to provide on-site counseling services, interventions and support. Staff can choose to receive counselling at the Hope Performance Systems clinic sites or at the District satellite office.
While the District is providing peer group counseling sessions to staff at no cost, staff members seeking additional services have the option to utilize their health insurance provider or the discounted cash rate, created just for Beaufort County School District employees. Additional integrative health care options include: chiropractic care, physical therapy, dietetic counseling, acupuncture, individual personal training and virtual gym memberships.
Alice Walton, the school district’s Chief Administrative Services and Human Resources Officer, said #YouMatterBCSD will be the first in a series of new initiatives designed to improve the physical and emotional health of district employees.