State Department of Education Launches Program to Support Mental Health in California Schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL/AP) — California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a statewide program in response to growing mental health issues facing students during the pandemic of COVID-19.

“As we recognize the impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of our school communities, we know that this important work requires the partnership and collaboration of steadfast partners who are dedicated to helping our most vulnerable children, youth and staff. ,” Thurmond said in an outing on Wednesday.

The program is called Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth and it provides educators and schools in California with strategies to create safe and trusted spaces for K-12 students.

Thurmond said he and the California Department of Education both recognize that the pandemic has impacted the lives of Californians by causing anxiety, grief and stress in schools across the state.

“Data shows that depression and anxiety in children and youth have doubled globally since the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California’s Chief Medical Officer. “And we know that the same stress that leads to negative mental health outcomes can also lead to negative physical health outcomes now and in the future.”

In 2020, child psychiatrists reported seeing children with coronavirus-related phobias, tics and eating disorders obsessed with the infection, rubbing their hands bareback, covering their bodies with hand sanitizer and terrified the thought of getting sick from food.

Doctors also said the children suffered from panic attacks, heart palpitations and other symptoms of mental anguish, as well as chronic addictions to the mobile devices and computer screens that became their guardians, teachers and entertainers during lockdowns, curfews and school closures.

Based on research and neuroscience, the film program will support mental health by showing how trusting relationships are the most powerful cure for the damaging effects of stress and trauma.

The film features education experts considering trauma, equity and innovation in education, and shares messages of hope and opportunity.

A trusted space and the easy-to-use curriculum that accompanies it will help educators and staff, including bus drivers, teachers, and administrators, feel heard, validated, and supported and provide strategies for that schools are better equipped to support the students they serve,” Thurmond explained.

In conjunction with CalHope, Department of Education officials will also offer a 60-minute professional development program designed to help teachers and other young leaders work with students to create an atmosphere of trust where learning and healing can occur.

The program will include a 40-minute film featuring education experts who will provide advice on how to create a space of trust in five days. This program will be free to all California K-12 educators, school staff, and youth-serving adults.

“Our CalHOPE student support initiative helps advance positive social and emotional learning environments in our school communities, both in person and virtually,” said Dr. Jim Kooler, CalHOPE Program Director.. “A space of trust will help our cause as we continue to support children, youth, families and teachers during the public health emergency.

To register for this free program, tap or click here.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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