Global pandemics and current events are stressful. So many worries and unknowns. If you are feeling on edge, know this is normal. There are things you can do to take care of anxiety and one important thing to remember is self-care. Prioritize self-care so that you can cope with what comes next. Another critical factor is to remember that it is okay to ask for help. Modeling this for your children encourages them to also ask for help when they have needs. In addition, know what signs to look for to determine if you or your children need additional help in dealing with stressors.
As the number of COVID-19 positive cases and people in quarantine rise, our levels of anxiety tend to increase. The mental health staff in Forest Hills have worked to create a page of resources to meet the needs of our families. This page contains many valuable resources including a list of all the mental health staff and their contact information for each building throughout Forest Hills, a list of information for secondary students and families about COVID-19 (including understanding and recognizing the warning signs of depression), guides to support the social/emotional needs of children and how to talk about COVID, a list of resources and contact information for mental health supports in the Grand Rapids area, a list of local assistance programs including food sources, and strategies for self-care, and more. Our mental health staff has tried to create a page that families can go to which provides resources for any needs families may have at this time.
Where to Turn if You Need Help
FHPS has school counselors and social workers here to continue to support our students and families. Please email your child’s school staff listed below for additional assistance.
Central Attendance Area
- Central High School
- Central Middle School
- Central Woodlands 5/6 School
- Ada Elementary
- Pine Ridge Elementary
- Thornapple Elementary
Eastern Attendance Area
- Eastern High School
- Eastern Middle School
- Knapp Forest Elementary
- Orchard View Elementary
Northern Attendance Area
- Northern High School
- Northern Hills Middle
- Northern Trails 5/6
- Ada Vista Elementary
- Collins Elementary
- Meadow Brook Elementary
Buildings Not Defined by Attendance Area
In addition to FHPS school counselors and social workers, FHPS has three mental health liaisons to assist students and families. They assist the district in mental health initiatives and are able to provide direct assistance to students and families with a variety of services including direct referrals for mental health support, connection to community resources, and assistance in times of crisis.
Ranger Mental Health Liaison
Kate DeVries is the Mental Health Liaison for the Central district attendance area including Ada Vista Elementary School. Prior to joining FHPS, she has worked in several school settings, providing services to address issues associated with anxiety, depression, social and academic difficulties, behavioral problems, crisis interventions, and suicide assessments. In addition, her previous outpatient therapy work with children, adolescents, adults, and families has centered around treatment associated with behavioral, eating and mood disorders. She also has years of experience in working with psychological testing including ADHD, Autistic Spectrum and Behavioral, Educational, and Neurological Disorders. She is excited to continue her work in the schools providing services to students, parents, families, and staff to address the emotional and behavioral health needs within FHPS.
Hawk Mental Health Liaison
Mattie serves the Eastern district attendance area and Goodwillie 5/6 School. Prior to joining FHPS, Mattie worked as a child and family therapist at both the home-based and outpatient levels of care. She has a passion for working with children who have experienced trauma and helping to meet their social and emotional needs. Mattie believes that if the social and emotional needs of the child are prioritized and adequately met, then they can then be successful learners in the classroom.
Husky Mental Health Liaison
Jon serves the Northern district attendance area including the Transition Center. Before joining the FHPS team, he worked as a child and family therapist in both home-based and outpatient programs. This experience helps him assist others navigating through school, mental health, child welfare, and juvenile justice issues. In his clinical work, he has focused extensively on complex trauma and its effect across generations. This process has included working with youth who were psychiatrically hospitalized, detained for criminal charges, or removed from the home due to severe emotional/behavioral issues. Most recently, he transitioned from providing therapy at one of Pine Rest’s outpatient clinics. He is passionate about utilizing data to improve mental health programs and is excited to join Forest Hills’ dedication to serving the whole child.
Restorative questions can be used to help facilitate a discussion about the abrupt end of the school year. These questions are designed to allow students to voice their thoughts and feelings. Adults can be supportive and reassuring without trying to “fix” things. Validate your child’s’ concerns, even if you don’t fully understand or agree; this is a listening activity. If necessary, you may ask questions that allow for expanded responses, such as, “Tell me more about that…” or “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” Allow everyone, even the adults, the opportunity to share.
Many FHPS staff are trained in Restorative Practices and use this language in our schools. So, the format of the questions will be familiar to many students. The questions can be adapted for nearly any situation, i.e., job loss, health concerns, fear/uncertainty about the future. The questions are as follows:
- What did you think when you realized schools would be closing?
- What impact has this had on you and others?
- What has been the hardest thing for you?
- If you could get together with your teachers and classmates, what would you do or say?
- What would you like to see three months from now or at the beginning of next school year?
- Eat healthy foods
- Stay physically active
- Get regular sleep and rest
- Create a sense of structure and routine in daily life. You can do this by having regular times (Monday through Friday) to wake up, eat, do school work, exercise/go outside, clean up around the house, have free time, and go to bed.
- Connect socially with friends and family, while maintaining physical distance
- Practice hobbies that have brought you joy in the past, or relaxation techniques that have worked for you before.
- Limit the amount of news you take in online or through television. Just like we monitor and adjust our food intake based on what our bodies need/can handle, in this situation we all need to monitor our news intake.
- Focus on what you can control, washing your hands, maintaining social distance, etc.
- Pine Rest
Forest Hills Clinic, 877 Forest Hills Ave. Suite C, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
To schedule a new appointment for outpatient therapy call 616-455-5000.
- Network 180 (medicaid only)
790 Fuller Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Open 24/7 for mental health crises. To schedule an assessment for ongoing services call 616-336-3909.
- Forest View Hospital
1055 Medical Park Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Toll-Free Phone: 800-949-8439 Local Phone: 616-942-9610
Anyone can report tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, or schools. Tips can be submitted 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
- FHPS Free Food Distribution: The district will continue with breakfast and lunch meal distribution through June 2 for all students age 18 and under as well as students with disabilities age 26 and under. This includes the week of spring break.
- Locations: Central High School and Northern High School
- Days: Tuesday (Wednesday-Friday meals) and Friday (Saturday-Tuesday meals)
- Time: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Additional Food Assistance: If your financial status has recently changed due to COVID-19, you may temporarily qualify for free- or reduced-price meals for the first 30 days of the new school year. Visit www.lunchapp.com to fill out a confidential application. (This will also qualify you to receive the P-EBT benefits described below.)
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 0-26 that are eligible for free- or reduced-price School Meals. This includes families currently receiving Food Assistance Program (FAP) benefits, as well as those not currently enrolled in the program. No application is necessary for eligible families to receive P-EBT benefits.
P-EBT Program Information
Q: When will P-EBT cards be mailed out?
A: P-EBT benefits are being distributed in waves. The first round of benefits for families with active Food Assistance Program cards started last week and will continue to be distributed through the first week of May. The benefit will go to their bridge card. Families that do not have a bridge card will be mailed a P-EBT card. These cards will also be distributed in waves. The first cards start mailing out April 26th and will continue through the middle of May. Instructions are being mailed out for how to use and activate the card. Again, it will take until the middle of May for cards to be mailed out.
Q: Will there be directions on how to use the card?
A: There will be directions mailed about a week ahead of the card. To activate the card, call the phone number on the back of the card. You will need the EBT card number on the front of the card, your zip code, and the date of birth of the oldest child in your household. You will need to set a four-digit pin number.
Q: What address will the P-EBT card be sent to?
A: If the student was already receiving SNAP benefits, they will automatically receive the P-EBT benefits on their current Food Assistance Program (FAP) card. If the student is eligible based on a free- or reduced-price meal application, a new P-EBT card will go to the address in the Michigan Student Data System.
Q: I have multiple school-age children, how much will our family be eligible for?
A: The pre-loaded Pandemic-EBT card will come in the mail and will be in the oldest school-aged child’s name, not the parent’s name. Keep the card for ongoing benefits you may receive. The benefit amount for March/April is $193.80 per child and will be available by the end of April. The benefit amount for May/June is $182.40 per child and will be available by the end of May.
Q: What if I have more questions about the P-EBT card?
A: For more information visit the Michigan Department of Education’s website, or call 1-833-905-0028.
Additional Local Agencies Offering Help and Assistance
- 2-1-1- United Way
Call 2-1-1 United Way, West Michigan
Food assistance and pantries, utility assistance, COVIS-19 Kent County resources
- North Kent Connect
An organization committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County by providing access to basic needs and promoting economic independence.
- Spectrum Health/COVID-19 Resources
- Mercy Health – St. Mary’s
- Feeding America
- Kent County Health Department
Call the clinic: 616-632-7100
- The Bridge at Arbor Circle
This is a safe shelter program for youth, ages 10-17, who are facing homelessness or considering running away.
- Crisis Support via Texting
Text “HOME” to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor (24/7 support at your fingertips)
- Aunt Bertha
Search for free or reduced-cost services like medical care, food, job training, and more. Resources listed on Aunt Bertha are organized by zip code. Families outside of our area still may find assistance. ClickHERE to get started.
- A Coronavirus Response Fund has been established to help meet immediate needs in the community and support nonprofits serving vulnerable populations. Text “COVID” to 40403 or visit https://www.hwmuw.org/ to make a donation.
- Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, AA/Substance/Drug Abuse
- YWCA for Domestic Violence
- Kent County, Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services for Abuse of Children and Adults
- National Institute on Drug Abuse
- YWCA for Domestic Violence
- Michigan.gov Mental Health Resouces
- Understanding and Recognizing the Warning Signs of Depression by BetterHelp the world’s largest e-counseling platform
- A Guide to Supporting the Social-Emotional Needs of Students by the MDE
- National Association of School Psychologists.
- Talking to Teens and Tweens About CoronaVirus – NYTimes
- Talking to Kids About The Corona Virus – ChildMind
- Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus – NPR
- PBS Videos and Resources
- Heart Chart Video created by FHPS staff member, Miss LaSage from Ada Elementary
- How to Avoid Passing Anxiety on to your Kids
- National Assoc. of School Psychologists: A Parents’ Guide to Talking with Children about COVID-19
- National Geographic: Talking to Kids about Coronavirus
- Understanding and Recognizing the Warning Signs of Depression by BetterHelp the world’s largest e-counseling platform
- Studies about people in isolation and the phases people go through: “We have begun the dreaded third quarter of isolation…”
- Harvard Medical School: Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety
- Seven Science-Based Strategies for Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety
- What You Need to Know About COVID-19
- Peak Resilience: Complete Mental Health Guide During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Mental Health Europe: Coronavirus – Eight Ways to Look After Your Mental Health
Tips for Supporting Your Child Through Grief and Loss
It is difficult to think or talk about death. Experiencing loss during a national pandemic creates even additional and unique challenges. Many of the traditional ways of processing grief will look different due to social distancing requirements. This will be an adjustment for all. We are hopeful that the suggestions and resources below will be helpful as you and your child process this loss.
- It is important to talk about death even though it is hard. Allow your child to ask questions and answer truthfully. It is also okay not to have all the answers.
- Expect that your child may exhibit mood swings, struggle with emotional expression and require reassurance that they are safe. It’s normal for everyone to have different feelings – fine and happy at times or sad or even mad at other times.
- Be available to process feelings with your child. Validate their feelings using phrases such as “I can see why you would feel that way.”, “It is ok to feel that way.”, or simply “Tell me more about what makes you feel that way.”
- Encourage self-care for both yourself and your child. Model ways to take care of yourself through physical exercise, spending time with family pets, music, etc.
- Allow choice regarding how or if your child would like to be involved in events that are planned in celebration of the life that was lost.
- Dedicate time to put down electronic devices and talk. We are in the midst of a time where everyone is working hard to stay connected virtually, while connection is key to feeling part of a community of support it is also important to set healthy boundaries with screens.
Ele’s Place: Ele’s Place West Michigan is dedicated solely to helping children and teens work with and through grief. Ele’s Place recognizes that the emotions that children and teens experience during times of great change, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, can be very similar to the emotions experienced after a death. Your students may be grieving the loss of an interrupted school year, fewer extracurricular activities, the inability to see friends or family members, the loss of a parent’s income, and much more. Unfortunately, the need for our services will never go away. Unresolved grief negatively affects our children and teens, contributing to alarming rates of depression, addiction, and violence. Among the information on their website is an article about talking to your children about death.
The National Alliance for Grieving Children has a toolkit, in English and Spanish, parents can download for free. For many that offer grief support to children, teens and those that care for them there are many challenges as a result of the social distancing that is necessary in light of the global pandemic. The National Alliance for Grieving Children created a series of free resources.
FHPS school counselors and mental health liaisons. If you would like additional support or have concerns about your child please reach out to a FHPS counselor or mental health liaison. Contact information is provided on this web page, listed above.
Take time for self-care. The Virtual Calming Room website offers sounds and music, visual relaxation, links to apps, and more and was created by OSSEO Area Learning Center of Minnesota.
Additional Articles about Grief and Loss
- Grief and COVID-19: Saying Goodbye in the Age of Physical Distancing, by the American Psychological Association
- Understanding Grief in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
- How to Cope with Bereavement During the COVID-19 Pandemic, by Psychology Today
- Grief and COVID-19: Mourning our Bygone Lives: The pandemic has led to a series of losses, from our sense of safety to our social connections, to our financial security. Psychologists point to ways we can heal by the American Psychological Association.