Emotional wellness work in Voorhees

Voorhees Middle School was the site for a presentation on emotional wellness last week as the district continues to work towards alleviating stress in students and staff

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in a 2019 study that ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children.

Across the United States, over 6 million children have been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression. Voorhees Township Public Schools launched an initiative earlier this school year to better train faculty and staff on emotional wellness.

Lisa Ahern and Michael Gotlib, with The Center for Emotional Wellness of Greater Philadelphia, have been working with the district over the past few months to better recognize and address stress and anxiety, in both adults and children.

The pair’s presentation at Voorhees Middle School Monday, May 6 to parents was stage three of four in assisting Voorhees teachers, parents and students.

“We first attended a task force meeting with about 40 individuals from the various schools in the school district,” Gotlib said. “They brought us in to kind of hear us, get to know us and answer their questions.”

After agreeing to work together, the professionals met with teachers from all schools for a district introduction, similar to the one they presented this past week to interested parents. Next, the township assembled a task force with representatives from all the schools that would meet throughout the year with The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia for three full-day trainings on emotional wellness.

Ahern says the district reached out to the group due to the rising concern of stress in both students and staff.

“The school district reached out to us saying that [it] was having this uptick in a lot of anxiety, a lot of anxiousness, a lot of stress among the kids, but also amongst staff and everybody dealing with stress in a regular basis,” said Ahern, during the presentation. “And they wanted to do something about that,”

The meeting this past week is the final planned mass training session on emotional wellness before preparing for consultations and anything additional at the end of the school year. According to Ahern, the mission was to better understand and better meet the emotional needs of students and staff with regard to stress and anxiety.

During the parent presentation, the two discussed multiple aspects of emotional wellness, such as how to recognize a problem and ways to help deal with anxiety and stress, undergoing several demonstrations to help better understand how stress develops and where it might come from.

As the two addressed in the presentation, stress can affect both high- and low-performing students in the classroom, while coming from different places and having different symptoms per student.

Throughout the nearly two-hour presentation, the pair also elaborated on different ways to alleviate stress and ways to build resilience against stressors for young and adult persons over time. Parents were also able to ask questions regarding specific instances in their own children and techniques to help alleviate stress at home, or perhaps most specifically, in dealing with schoolwork.