It’s not a dystopian novel. It’s no
science fiction movie. It’s real
life, today, right here: A deathly
School social workers, counselors
and psychologists are helping
students cope by staying in contact
remotely via phone, online — even
drive-by home visits.
Support is also available for the
adults — health care professionals,
K–12 teachers and School-Related
Professionals, and higher ed faculty
and staff — whose lives have been
NYSUT’s Social Services provides
information on a host of available
resources. Social Services specialist
Ani Shahinian has been fielding
calls from members initially focused
on primary needs, such as safety,
staying healthy and getting food. As
the school building and business
closures and state pause has progressed,
this has been followed by a
concentration of more calls relating
to financial concerns, including
unemployment of spouses, and some
substitute teachers and contractual
“The dominoes are falling,” she
said. “Every aspect of our lives is
Shahinian shared helpful tools:
Pay attention to the effects of
isolation. Continued isolation for
people with mental health issues
can be toxic. “Your perspective can
become very clouded,” she said. If
you know someone who lives alone,
check in by text, phone or email.
Choose one or two reliable news
sources. Do not overdo the news; do
not get news from social media.
Set up a routine. “Sleep patterns
and self-care are really important
right now,” Shahinian said. Exercise
can be done alone or with family
members and classes on the internet.
Play music. Visit sites such as
lincolncenter.org to watch performances
of dancers, singers and
If you live alone, try connecting
with pets. Lack of human touch can
be alienating and disorienting.
Post a paper calendar. This will
help avoid disorientation about day
Write letters and cards to connect
with others. Making homemade
cards will tap into your creativity.
Breathing exercises and relaxation
apps are helpful.
Be cognizant of what is going
well and cultivate gratitude.
Children may be concerned their
parents will die. Members may also
be concerned about their own mortality.
“We’re all anxious,” Shahinian
said. “Believe you’re going to be
okay if you do what we’ve been told.”
She encouraged generating a sense
of calm — and doing your part to
“Educators are trying to manage
caring for and educating their own
children while not sacrificing for their
students. These stressors have come
upon them very quickly,” said John
Garruto, president of the New York
Association of School Psychologists
and a member of the Oswego
Classroom TA. “It’s a reminder of the
importance of taking care of ourselves.
If we do not, we become less
successful in helping others.”
- Contact NYSUT Social Services at 518-732-6239 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In response to the pandemic, the
American Federation of Teachers is
providing grief counseling at no cost
to all members, active and retired,
if a death occurs in the immediate
family as the result of COVID-19. Access dedicated counselors via
video, phone or text. For more
information, visit aft.org/benefits/trauma.
- The AFT offers several mental health
resources at aft.org/coronavirus.The national union partnered
with the Anxiety and Depression
Association of America on a host
of mental health-related resources,
including pro bono therapy for
health care providers; and videos
and podcasts on managing anxiety
and uncertainty. Resources also
include Taking care of yourself in
difficult times, a publication that
shares helpful tips including how to
recognize changes in your behavior
and methods to get realigned.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Service Administration’s
National Helpline is 800-662-HELP.
Marshaling mental health resources
is vital to staying mentally, emotionally
and spiritually fit during this time of great
challenge. Licensed clinical
psychologist L. Kevin Chapman puts it
Focus on what you can control.
Identify negative thoughts.
Generate alternate thoughts.
Highlight adaptive behaviors.
Teach someone else the same.