South Orangetown Central School District

For Children’s Mental Health Week (May 5-12), Family Engagement Center Coordinator AJ Walker and School Social Workers Jessenia Cursio and Jessica Inglis visited our schools during lunchtime to share age-appropriate tips and resources for living a healthy, happy life with students.

On Monday at William O. Schaefer Elementary School, conversations and activities focused on helping students identify emotions. “The earlier that children start learning about mental health, the earlier that they can start identifying how they feel and understand that all feelings are normal. And that it’s OK to talk about them,” says Ms. Cursio.

At Cottage Lane Elementary School on Tuesday, emphasis was placed on being a caring friend. Key message: “Be aware of your own feelings, but others’ feelings too. Be a good friend by listening and talking about feelings.”

“Knowledge is power, so we’re sharing statistics with students so that they know that many people struggle with mental health issues and if they’re struggling, they’re not alone,” said Ms. Cursio at South Orangetown Middle School on Wednesday. SOMS students were encouraged to write messages of support for each other on posters that will be displayed in the building.

The final #SOCSDcares event of Children’s Mental Health Week was at Tappan Zee High School, where Ms. Walker, Ms. Inglis and Ms. Cursio spent three lunch periods talking with students about coping strategies. Students were encouraged to post strategies that work for them and read those posted by others for new ideas.

The #SOCSDcares campaign has been “helpful in normalizing for students that everyone struggles with mental stresses,” explained Ms. Inglis. “Students were able to open up and share how they’re really feeling with us and know that there’s help. We’ve had a lot of students come up and thank us for doing this, so there is a recognition that mental health is an important issue to be talking about.”

“We’ve been able to meet virtually every student in the district this week,” added Ms. Walker. “Now they know who we are, they’ve met us and they know where to find us.” Parents are encouraged to speak with their children about the activities and conversations they may have participated in this week. Not sure who to contact at your child’s school for support? “Help Card” information is posted under the “Student Resources” section of each of our school websites’ For Students pages. See links below:

MentalHealth.gov’s Talk About Mental Health pages also contain helpful information for students, parents, and educators and is hosted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

“South Orangetown recognizes the importance of discussing mental health and supporting the wellbeing of all our students,” said Executive Director of Pupil Personnel Services Dr. Karen Tesik. “Our proposed budget enhances supports in each of our schools to meet the evolving needs of our students and families and allows for the addition of prevention counselors for the middle school and high school and a school counselor for our elementary schools. Adding these key positions to our existing staff, coupled with the implementation of our newly developed Comprehensive Developmental Guidance Plan, will build a robust model of student support as we move forward.”

School social workers and Family Engagement coordinator wearing green mental health awareness t-shirts at informational table