More student support needed, says school counsellor

"“There has been an alarming increase of anxiety and depression amongst our children." ~ school counsellor Kathleen Carelli

  • Jun. 25, 2015 5:00 a.m.

School District 20(SD20) students are at risk, and Kathleen Carelli, elementary school counsellor for the district, says they need more help.

The first delegation at Monday’s board of trustees meeting, Carelli shared her experiences with at-risk youth and how the problem seems to be getting worse.

“There has been an alarming increase of anxiety and depression amongst our children. They are not equipped to deal with the emotional demands our culture expects of us,” she told the trustees, citing home life, technology and more as reasons for the increase in youth issues.

“This has led to many more incidents of self-inflicted violence, where a child will cut themselves or use an eraser vigorously on their skin to experience physical pain for temporary relief from their emotional pain.”

She proposed a solution to the issue of struggling students who aren’t getting support at home, or not enough supports in the classroom.

“I would like to strongly recommend having two counsellors for a district this size, over 2,000 children and large distances, and the growing needs,” she said.

“It would be important to have a male and a female, given that some of the issues are sensitive to gender. Each school would also benefit greatly from having a full-time child and classroom worker (CCW).

“They are essential to the counsellors work. They see these kids each day and are able to identify escalating and crisis situation and contact counsellors. These roles are crucial in today’s fragmented society”

Trustees were very receptive to Carelli’s concerns and recognized the need for more psychological resources for young students.

“I think this presentation is one of them most important ones we have heard all year,” said Trustee Mickey Kinakin. “It is a fact that our children are desperately at risk. What happened in North Carolina a few days ago was committed by an individual that had no connection to the world. We have students that are connected to the internet but not society as a whole. We can’t blame them. We have to understand and help them.”

Trustee Mark Wilson fully backed Carelli’s ideas, but said there may have been a better time in the school year to make the suggestion.

“My heart goes out to you Kathleen with some of the things you deal with on a daily basis. We can see it,” he said. “I love the idea of two counsellors, male and female, and I support that 100 per cent, but I would have loved to see that discussion during our budget talks so we could look at being able to do that. If we spend our money the right way, there is no reason why we couldn’t have two counsellors.”

Wilson’s comments were echoed by many of the other trustees around the table, recognizing the work Carelli does with the children in SD20 and agreeing to look at the options available during next year’s budget talks.

The next SD20 meeting takes place in the new school year, on Sept. 28, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre in room 210.