A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that mental health has become a serious problem due to the ongoing pandemic, New York City announced steps it is taking to tackle the mental wellbeing of the youth.
Deputy Chancellor for School Climate and Wellness LaShawn Robinson, who leads the city's DOE efforts to provide student support services, joined Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray in touching upon the "tremendous challenge our children have faced over the last seven to eight months."
"Our children dealt with abrupt separation from their teachers and counselors, distance from their friends, various forms of loss in their families and more," Robinson said. "Now that our children have returned to school, we have an opportunity to make them heal emotionally."
According to Robinson, New York City Schools will provide students with "love, care and support" when it comes to helping them navigate through these unprecedented times with "easily accessible" and "high quality" mental health care thanks to a new initiative that increases the level of direct support.
The initiative Helping Our Children will provide support to children within the neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID-19 by providing trained health professionals focusing on trauma-informed group work for students in 350 schools.
Additionally, each mental health specialist will cover up to five schools each.
The initiative also calls for 26 schools to be able to give direct referral of students with mental health needs to Health+Hospitals mental health clinics.
"By bringing the incredible mental health and educational resources our city has to offer, we can continue to help our young people heal and thrive," Robinson said.
De Blasio said that reopening schools has been a benefit for students, particularly those who need support.
"If you wanted another reason why it was so important to reopen the largest school system in the country, you just heard it," the mayor said. "For so many of our kids, they need that support. They need that love and compassion. They need trained educators and mental health experts to be there for them...so having our schools open is opening the doors to kids getting the help they need."