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By Carlena Knight

A week before teachers welcome students back to the classroom, two mental health specialists have rolled out a new programme to support educators’ positive mental health.

T’mira Looby, a decorated and experienced counsellor, and counselling psychologist Alaina Gomes will be offering their services in the form of a mental health workshop for teachers and other staff dubbed ‘Kickin’ Covid: Stress Management for Educators and Administrators’.

The four-hour interactive event will delve into educator and teacher burn-out, stress management techniques for primary and secondary level students, self-care and coping strategies, and psychosocial support and activities for students.

“First, we start talking about the new normal, what the school setting is going to look like now that we are in the era of this Covid-19 pandemic and then we talk about impacts of this new normal on a person’s mental health, whether it be emotional, physical, financial,” Looby explained.

“There are so many different components and different things that people are experiencing now and then we identify signs or symptoms of stress, of burn-out and then we go into specific techniques for managing that stress. So, we look at positive reframing, we look at adaptive thinking, self-care and coping strategies,” she said.

“When it comes to the section dealing with students, we are looking at again the same situations but when it comes to the stress management aspect of it, it’s really about providing a psychosocial support to your students and then also identifying the appropriate intervention for their students because a child that is five years old is not going to experience stress or express it the same way a 14-year-old adolescent might or an adult might.”

Looby, who is the founder of Transformation Through Therapy, a local mental health and consulting firm that will be facilitating the workshop, explained how the initiative was conceptualised.

“We initially did a workshop at the Island Academy last Monday. They reached out to us about a week prior and said, we are interested in having somebody come in and just talk to the teachers about stress, and Alaina and I got together and said this is definitely something that we can do,” Looby continued.

“Once we kind of put the presentation together, we realised this is something that can actually benefit all schools, so we decided to expand on that and make it open to whomever is in need.”

The workshop does have a cash component attached to it but is “dependable on the amount of participants and is worked out with the schools”.

She mentioned future plans for the pair to reach out to the Ministry of Education and the schools to partner in this cause.

Looby believes it is even more imperative at this time that the focus should be on the mental health and wellbeing of the nation, as people try to cope with the new normal of Covid-19.

“Given the fact that we are in a pandemic, situations like these tend to increase symptoms of mental illness or even introduce symptoms of mental illness in people who may not have experienced that before.

“So, right now, I think it is extremely fitting that we place importance on mental health because the teachers and students are going into school with a new set of regulations, a new set of protocols, a new way of doing things and they have to figure out how to navigate this new way while also ensuring that they are able to fulfill their roles as teachers efficiently and effectively,” the mental health professional said.

The situation does not only affect the school setting, she added, as she underscored the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own mental health, “because it helps us to have a better work-life balance and it also helps us to identify the need to get that extra assistance, get that extra help”.

For more details about the workshops email transformationthroughthe[email protected] or call 788-3509.

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