Steve Harvey wants the kids in Brooke-Alvinston to get the best start possible.
But the principal of Brooke-Alvinston Public School says right now students are facing increased pressure at home and school and it’s leading to mental health problems.
Harvey recently told municipal leaders the needs of elementary school students are overwhelming. “There is no week go past where we don’t have a major mental health issue in the school,” he says including “talk of suicide, cutting to a major breakdown.”
“We have kids that check in every day and we ask ‘how are you today?’”
“For the vast majority of situations it is that adult common sense that is needed…they don’t need high faluting diagnosis, they need a calm person to sit there and listen and we have an exceptional staff who are attuned to the kids.”
Harvey says he and the staff do all you can and there are some resources available from the Lambton-Kent District School Board but there is a great need across the region making it difficult to get counseling in the school.
“St. Clair Child and Youth has a School Community Invention program. We nominate students, one a month, then the student and the family work with St. Clair on a problem based on anxiety.” While helpful, it doesn’t meet the need in the school.
Recently, Harvey became aware of Rebound Sarnia-Lambton’s programs for students in grades 4,5 and 6. “They’re aimed at students in the formative years of the ages 8 to 11,” he says adding a social worker gets together with a small group and spends time working on specific skills including problem solving, dealing with fears and how do you make a friend.
“Those are the sorts of things the school does do but we don’t have the luxury of the staff to do this intensive work. This direct intervention could have a more meaningful impact,” he says adding currently they’re just “putting out fires” in the school.
Harvey says a two programs, one for 10 girls called Stage and another for 10 boys called TAG, have already started but they need to pay for the service. The school has come up with some of the $2,000 and Harvey asked the municipality to help out as well.
Harvey says the community has always been very supportive of the school financially. “People like to be able to say we had a small part to play in a program that’s helped the kids in the community.”
Brooke-Alvinston council put aside $500 for the Rebound programs at the elementary school saying there is a real need to help. “I don’t think people realize the severity of the problems we have,” says Mayor Don McGugan.
Harvey agreed saying “We have to grab the snake by the head that is becoming a huge issue in every school.”