PTSD also known as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a psychological disorder that happens when one has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Traumatic events include: a serious accident, war/combat, rape, natural disaster, a terrorist act, threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury.  

There are four main categories for PTSD symptoms, however, they can vary in severity:

  1. Intrusive thoughts like flashbacks, repeated, involuntary memories, stressful dreams. These can happen and make one feel as though they are re-living the event.
  2. Avoiding people, situations, objects, and places that remind one of the traumatic event. The avoidance can be so profound that one will resist thinking or even talking about it.
  3. Thoughts and mood will be distorted and often hard to remember that may be important aspects of the traumatic event. These distortions can make it difficult for one to experience positive emotions, have any interest in previously enjoyed activities, or feel detached from others.
  4. Distortions in reactivity and arousal such as irritability and anger outbursts, acting in self-destructive ways, being suspicious of one’s surroundings, easily startled, or difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Information found and provided by:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

School Intervention:

Dr. Sheryl Kataoka provided an intervention for teachers, school staff and adults to help children and students that experience PTSD symptoms while at school. This intervention is a part of Psychological First Aid for Schools.

Step 1: Listen

During step one, teachers or adult school staff should provide students with an opportunity to share their experiences and express feelings of worry, anxiety, fear or other concerns about their safety. Speaking with students can occur one-on-one if a teacher and student find themselves in a relatively private place to talk. The adult should convey interest, empathy and availability, and let students know they are ready to listen. The teacher can open the discussion by acknowledging what has happened and letting students know that it is not only acceptable to share their experiences and establishing that the school is a safe place to do this.

Adults should avoid making judgments and predictions, such as “You’ll get over it,” or “Only the strong survive.” It is important to validate the students’ life experiences without probing students for more details than they are willing to share. Forcing students to go over their experiences in too much detail, especially immediately after the crisis, can re-traumatize the student and may cause more emotional and psychological distress to themselves and to others who may hear additional details about the event.

Step 2: Protect

For this second step, adults should try to reestablish students’ feelings of both physical and emotional safety. They can honestly inform students about events surrounding the crisis, such as sharing with them information about what is being done in the community and school to keep everyone safe. This information should be provided in a developmentally and age-appropriate manner. In the classroom, or around school, adults should maintain structure, stability and predictability, and make efforts to reestablish routines, expectations and rules. For example, bell schedules should return to normal as soon as possible. If shortened days are required, keep them to a minimum. Traumatized students may experience more confusion when disruption comes to their school routines, including after school activities, by too many changes to their regular schedules. Concerns about separation from parents or caregivers are frequently children’s paramount concern. Parents can help stabilize children’s reactions by resuming mealtime, homework, and bedtime routines as well as community or church activities disrupted by the crisis or emergency. It is also important at this phase to protect students from further physical harm or psychological trauma which can occur through their viewing or hearing repetitive media reports on the incident or through bullying by peers at school.

Step 3: Connect

One of the most common reactions to trauma or fear is emotional and social isolation and the sense of loss of social supports. It can occur automatically, without students or adults realizing that they are withdrawing from their teachers or peers, respectively. The third step is to help students reestablish their normal social relationships and stay connected to others in order to experience social support. Restoring and building connections promotes stability, recovery and predictability in students’ lives. A student’s classroom and school is a safe place to begin restoring normalcy during a crisis or disaster. Through the eyes of children, adults can identify the “systems of care” that are part of their everyday life, move from beyond the classroom and school to the family and then to other community anchors including preexisting faith and cultural supports. This objective serves to help students reconstitute the relationships between the key community systems or “anchors” in their lives. Teachers or other school staff that reach out and check in with students on a regular basis can do this reconstitution, sometimes several times a day Students also can be encouraged to interact, share “recovery” activities and take on team projects with other students, friends or teachers. With this type of interaction, students feel the caring and consistent support of adults in their lives, even during a difficult time of coping.

Step 4: Model Calm and Optimistic Behavior

Adults can model calm and optimistic behavior in many ways, including the following:

  • Maintain level emotions • and reactions with students to help them achieve balance
  • Take constructive actions to assure student safety, such as engaging in a safety drill to remind them of how to stay safe, or planning a project that improves the physical or social climate of the school
  • Express positive thoughts for the future, like “Recovery from this disaster may take some time, but we’ll work on improving the conditions at our school every day;” and
  • Help students to cope with day-to-day challenges by thinking aloud with them about ways they can solve their problems.

Step 5: Teach

To support and facilitate the coping process, it is important to help students understand the range of normal stress reactions. School counselors, nurses, psychologists or social workers can take on this task. They can help students become familiar with the range of normal reactions that can occur immediately after a traumatic event or disaster and teach relevant coping and problem-solving skills.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3287974/

HOPE is Here

If you’re struggling with PTSD or would like to refer a student or someone you know, we’d love to speak to you further. HOPE is here. Contact us today.

COVID-19 has changed our world. These changes can be challenging for many and in some cases can impact overall
functioning at home, school, or both for children and teens. 

Below are some questions to ask yourself about how well students in your class are adjusting to these new changes.

If you selected at least one of the items on this checklist, the student could benefit from mental health services. Make a referral by completing our online enrollment form.

Teachers aren’t immune to all of these difficult changes. HOPE is here for you too! Affordable self-pay rates are available. Call 706-279-0405 ext 149, email inquiries@gahope.org, or contact us online to learn more or get started today,

virtual learning

There’s a new urgency to explore online educational tools and best practices because of the coronavirus pandemic for virtual learning. This is a “new normal” for everyone and really there’s nothing about all of this virtual schooling during a pandemic crisis that is “normal.” We’ve put together 6 helpful tips to help engage your kids with virtual, online learning.

6 tips to help engage kids with virtual learning:

1. Setting Up a Good Routine is Key

Without the same need to get ready for a normal school day, and with everyone being home all the time (for the most part), it’s all too easy to let go what used to be normal routines. But having a routine is helpful for kids. Come up with a routine and stick to it, including a time for going to bed and getting up in the morning, breakfast, snack time and other meals, free play, outdoor activities, etc. The daily routine doesn’t have to be the same as it was during the pre-COVID school year, but it needs to be regular and you have to stick to it. This is really important for kids of all ages.

2. Setting up Devices & Space for Virtual Learning

Your child needs a computer or type of laptop / good tablet for virtual leaning. A phone isn’t the right tool for online learning. If providing a computer / good tablet is an issue for your family, contact your school because the school district is responsible for ensuring students who need equipment get it. But there is also the matter of internet access. Not every household has a reliable internet connection available. Again, if this is an issue for your household, contact your school to see what’s possible. There have been a lot of creative workarounds to these issues, so it’s likely a solution can be found.

As for the “space” where learning will take place. Put a little design effort into creating the right virtual education site in your home. Lying in bed or on the couch with a laptop or tablet is not sustainable or productive. Your child needs to sit comfortably and upright in a supportive chair with their device in front of them. We’ve seen some pretty creative ideas like the ones below of creating virtual learning “pods” in the home. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3. Creating Online Safety 

Kids at home with virtual learning are spending a lot of time on the internet. This puts them at even greater risk or all kinds of online problems, including cyber bullying and harassment, sexual predation and exposure to pornography,  fraud and identity theft, or getting hacked. As parents, you should have access to all their different online accounts, meaning you have their login credentials and can go in and actively monitor who they’re connected with and what kinds of interactions they are having online. Talk to them about why this is important and how they should always immediately come to you for anything.

4. Maintaining Focus & Motivation 

Kids may be feeling “down” during this “new normal” of virtual learning. Kids miss being with other kids and their friends, school, sports, etc. It may be hard to feel motivated for online learning and to focus with all of these feelings and changes. Plus there’s even more distractions at home and online learning. 

You can help your kids maintain focus and motivation during online learning hours by once again creating a routine, monitoring cellphone and technology usage outside of online learning, and promoting positive attitudes around the house as much as possible.

5. Creating Interaction 

For creating interaction, you can set up virtual playdates or online group homework or study-buddy sessions. Set up playdates outside at the park with small groups. Peer interaction is a valuable benefit some finding ways to incorporate that weekly is important. 

6. Monitoring  Online Learning

Nothing about all of this virtual schooling during a pandemic crisis is normal for anyone. The most important thing you can do is monitor how your kids are doing with this new form of education. Observe them. See how engaged they are. Are they taking notes? Are they asking questions? Are they sad? Are they angry? Are they just zoning out? Identify the hang-ups and challenges and then think about what you can do to help them through those. It’s not normal and everyone has a little more stress right now. It’s important to be flexible and forgiving, and as always HOPE is here.

Georgia HOPE specializes in providing quality mental health services for children, adults, individuals and families in the state of Georgia. To learn more, enroll, or refer someone to us, contact us below:

 

 

Anxiety can take place in many forms for children whether it is social anxiety, separation anxiety, or general anxieties. When childhood anxiety is heightened, it’s natural for parents and caregivers to go into protection mode. The best thing for parents and caregivers to do is to help their children learn to manage anxiety.

Here’s 6 Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Manage Their Anxiety:

1. Set Clear Expectations.

It’s important to have similar expectations for anxious children that you have for non-anxious children but it can be helpful to go at a little slower pace and make some accommodations. While you’re one child may want to attend every birthday party, your anxious child may want to avoid big birthday parties.  Setting clear expectations and helping your child create appropriate benchmarks like going to smaller birthday parties or birthday parties without big triggers like a bounce house or swimming pool. This will help create expectations and teach your child that she/he can work through anxious feelings and manage their anxiety with baby steps without completely missing out. 

2. Let Your Child Worry.

Don’t just say to your child “Don’t Worry!” or “Relax!” This doesn’t help them stop to worry. Instead, provide a listening here and allow your child to vent to you and brainstorm solutions together. 

3. Don’t Avoid the Anxiety.

Just like telling your child not to worry won’t make those anxious thoughts disappear, avoiding triggers of anxiety won’t help your child learn to cope. If your child becomes anxious around water for example, keeping your child completely away from pools, lakes, the ocean, the bath, etc will only validate the anxious thought. It sends the message that water in fact is danger. It’s better to help desensitize the triggers by taking small steps. Try looking at pictures of the ocean and talking about what triggers the feeling of anxiety. Next, go to a park with a pond and take a way around it. Finally, visit a pool or sit in the bath together with some toys to know that it’s okay. By taking small steps, kids can learn to work through their anxiety and find ways to cope.  

4. Help Them Build a Way to Cope.

One thing that helps anxious kids is having a list of ways to cope to use in a moment of anxiety. Here’s some examples you can practice together: 

  • Deep breathing
  • Stress ball
  • Write it out
  • Talking it out 
  • Counting to 10 

5. Get Back to Basics.

Your anxious child doesn’t need to play every sport and attend every birthday party, but they do need the basic health and social needs like:

  • Good sleep
  • Healthy meals & plenty of water
  • Downtime to decompress
  • Outdoor free play
  • Daily exercise (taking a walk, riding bikes, playing at the park, etc.)

6. Empathize Often.

Anxiety is tough for anyone, especially young kids. When kids feel overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, they can struggle to do everyday things like go to school or band practice. Anxiety in children can even cause them to avoid fun things like playdates with friends. It’s important to empathize and provide emotional support to your child. This normalizes what they are experiencing and helps them understand that they aren’t alone, and you will be there with them through it.

Reminder: Take Care of Yourself Too.

Parenting an anxious child can be emotionally draining and all-consuming. Between interrupted sleep and constant worries, child anxiety can take a toll on the parents and caregivers. Make sure to prioritize your own health needs so that you have the energy you need to help your child through this difficult time.

HOPE is Here.

As a reminder, you never have to suffer alone. There are resources available for you.

Georgia HOPE specializes in providing quality mental health services for children, adults, individuals and families in the state of Georgia. To learn more, enroll, or refer someone to us, contact us below:

Other Resources Available: 

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Georgia Crisis & Access Line: 1-800-715-4225
  • GMHCN Warm Line: 888-945-1414
  • CARES: 844-326-5400, Call or Text 8:30AM-11:00PM for Substance Use Crisis Text Line: 741-741

#HOPEisHere

 

covid blog

COVID-19 as a Trauma/Stress Event

This event has been experienced on a spectrum of “it doesn’t seem like it will impact us” to feeling overwhelmed, frozen or irritated, and not knowing what may happen next.

  • Previous Trauma (i.e. abuse, neglect, violence) can be exacerbated
  • Typical Stressors (i.e. falling behind in school, financial stress/food, regular schoolwork/tests, home stress) can all get worse during the pandemic
  • New Stressors (i.e. wearing a mask, washing hands, worrying about getting sick) surface

How We Might be Feeling Now

We may find ourselves feeling more agitated, easily annoyed or frustrated. Being in lockdown and having a worldwide presence of Covid-19 has left us feeling threatened. We can’t flee the danger so we may be revving up to fight or flat and begin to shut down.

Now things are changing again as we go back to school. Possible feelings for children, teachers and parents about returning to school:

  • Anxious or nervous
  • Afraid of the unknown
  • Reluctant to return
  • Poor sleep
  • Physically not feeing well (tummy or headaches)
  • Poor concentration and distractibility
  • Regression
  • Mood swings

How Can Schools in 2020 Be Trauma Sensitive?

  • There are many things educator, staff, parents and counselors can do to support children who have experienced trauma and help them to cope better at school.
  • Social connectedness – the biggest buffer in times of stress and distress. We can stay physically distant but emotionally close
  • Self-care – helping children learn to do this through modeling and education
  • A safe, predictable, supportive and consistent environment – create this in your environment. You can be the most important contribution for the child’s ability to learn to trust the world again, and enhance their capacity for resiliency
  • Checking in with students when they arrive in your classroom
  • Not expecting “calm” as this would be unrealistic of the children and ourselves. Be realistic about what will be achieved as many of us are in survival mode.
  • Be the thermostat, not the thermometer, for your classroom. Set the tone for your class and not let the class set your tone.

We Need to Put Our Own Oxygen Masks On First

Think of what the flight attendants say on a plane. They remind adult to put their own oxygen masks on before helping children or others around them.

Self-care needs to be a priority. We are no use to those around us if we are “unconscious”

What might self-care look like?

  • Doing an activity you like
  • Taking care of your physical and mental health

Other Ideas

  • Try and find ways to incorporate the whole brain throughout the day (rational thinking, emotions, and decision making)
  • Help regulate yourself and your students by encouraging reading, playing boardgames or learning opportunities
  • Help regulate yourself and your students by creating something or connecting with someone special in your life
  • Help regulate yourself and your students by moving your body around and doing exercise, body breaks or stretching

Ways to Minimize Covid-19’s Imprint in Our Lives

  • Predictability – try to have a routine and things to look forward to
  • Get Moving – feeling trapped increases our fight response
  • Connection – isolation is unnatural for humans. Reach out to friends, family or counselors
  • Numbing Out – often we try to numb out to keep safe, but we need to feel safe for our bodies to heal. Try becoming aware of yourself with loving kindness and compassion
  • Sense of Future – it can feel like this is will last forever. Try breathing or mindfulness to help get a sense of time
  • Sense of Safety – find ways to feel safe again. Listen to music, have private time and reach out if you are unsafe at home

Use of Zones of Regulation

The Zones of Regulation is a framework designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control (Kuypers). It is an effective way of identifying how we are feeling and functioning. It can also be used as a way to check-in with children and ourselves. We need to be in our green zone to in order to learn effectively. It is helpful to identify what we can do to support ourselves depending which zones we find ourselves in.

What are the Zones of Regulation?

Blue Zone (rest area)

  • Sad, sick, tired, board, moving slowly
  • To support myself: talk to your friends and maybe they can cheer you up

Green Zone (go)

  • Happy, calm, feeling okay, focused, ready to learn
  • To support myself: keep having a positive mindset

Yellow Zone (slow)

  • Frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, loss of some control
  • To support myself: try not to worry and go talk to someone to get it off your chest

Red Zone (stop)

  • Mad/angry, mean, terrified, hitting/yelling, out of control
  • To support myself: walk around or get a drink

For more resources on recognizing and preventing child abuse, neglect and mental health symptoms in a virtual classroom, click here.

If you have questions or would like to enroll in our services or make a referral:

#HOPEisHere

Content Developed by:

  • Christine Clark, MAMFT, LPC, NCC
  • Anna Fortune, LPC, CPCS

This school year may look a little different with virtual classrooms and online learning.
It’s important more than ever for teachers & staff to be able to recognize and prevent child abuse, neglect, and mental health symptoms of their students through a virtual classroom.

Here’s our top tips including downloadable flyers to share with teachers & staff.

Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect in a Virtual Classroom

Set a Safe Environment

  • Have rules about where students and teachers can video conference from
  • Teachers and students should be appropriately dressed
  • Classroom technology rules stay the same – no taking pictures or videos of the of classmates or instructors

Physical Indicators

  • Visible bruises
  • Unexplained illness or injuries
  • Parents use harsh physical discipline
  • Child absent from virtual classroom and missing most of their work
  • Personal hygiene and/or surroundings are not taken care of
  • Parent or child is abusing drugs or alcohol

Characteristics of Abuse

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Lacking adult supervision
  • Not receiving help for physical/medial problems
  • Seeming frightened when someone enters the room
  • Overly quiet not participating in class discussion, atypical for the child
  • Overly compliant, passive or withdrawn
  • Parent displays little concern for child
  • Parent denies existence or solely blames child for problems at home or school
  • Parent demands unrealistic expectations the child cannot achieve
  • Negative relationship between parent and child

Regularly Engage with Children and Their Caregivers

  • Make clear how you can be contacted and when you plan to connect
  • Ensure the ability to have private conversations with children and families when needed

Ask Questions and Be Curious

  • Talk regularly to children and their caregivers.
  • Ask specific questions
  • Notice any changes in the way the child or adult responds to questions
  • Ask if there is any need of support and work with them on finding support

Observe the Environment

  • Monitor the environment closely during video chats for changes in behaviors as well as any sounds heard during virtual contact (i.e. yelling in the background)
  • Observe and document any bruises or marks you observe during virtual contacts
  • Ask who is in the home and pay attention to the environment and who may be listening to the call

Recognizing Mental Health Symptoms in a Virtual Classroom

Did you know?

  • 1 in 5 children have a mental health condition.
  • Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14.
  • 70-80% of children who have mental health conditions never receive treatment.

How to Monitor Student Mental Health During Covid-19

  1. Trust your instincts – if you think something is off, act on that thought in whatever way is available to you: talk to your administrator, school counselor, or reach out directly to the parent or student if the school policy allows
  2. Use the standard metrics – attendance, completing work, performance on assessments. Also look for eye contact, body language, ability to focus, and vocal tone or speech patterns
  3. Be intentional – ask a few simple questions each time you post an assignment, lead a virtual class or have a video conference: how is everyone feeling? Is there anything on your mind? Is anyone stressed out over Covid-19? How about your parents and siblings, are they stressed?
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate – when you find out what’s going on, you can offer the appropriate support. If you don’t make contact, you are less likely to understand how you can best support the student
  5. Assume good will – remember that we’re living through a pandemic, so you are cautioned from assuming the worst. Be patient so everyone has a chance to get their bearings.

Downloadable Flyers to Share to Teachers & Staff

If you have questions or would like to enroll/ make a referral:

#HOPEisHere

References:

  • Trauma Sensitive Schools by C Hennessy (social worker) 2020
  • https://cancouncil.org/teachers-how-to-detect-prevent-child-abuse-neglect-in-a-virtual-classroom/
  • https://mainedoenews.net/2020/04/15/priority-notice-spotting-signs-of-child-abuse-and-neglect-during-the-covid-19-emergency-an-updated-guide-for-educational-professionals-and-others-who-care-for-maine-children/
  • https://evolvetreatment.com/blog/monitor-mental-health-covid-19/