RICHMOND, Va. -- As students return to school, educators will be on standby to spot any signs of physical, mental or emotional stress a child may display when they come back to the classroom.
"As an educator, you understand and you know what normal behavior is for your students, so you can recognize when a student is off," said Goochland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley.
Goochland County Public Schools is just one of several districts in Central Virginia adding mental and emotional health resources for students and staff, putting an emphasis on educators getting to know their students and their families.
"We've added a licensed mental health professional to support our students at the middle and high school. We're very well staffed with our school counselors, we actually added an additional school counselor at one of our elementary schools just based on student population. In the last two years, we've added a school social worker as well."
In Richmond Public Schools, all licensed staff is required to receive child abuse and neglect training. In an email to CBS 6, counselors, social workers and other mental health specialists were recently trained again in the district's Student Wellness Institute.
In Henrico County, all mental health providers have been trained in trauma-informed practices, many of which hold the status of Certified Trauma Practitioner, or the equivalent, which allows them to provide expert guidance in trauma-informed practices.
According to Eileen Cox, Henrico County Public Schools Chief of Communications, in the past year, 100% of school employees completed one of two different modules and all new HCPS employees are required to complete this training as part of their onboarding process.
Dr. Bela Sood, a psychiatrist with Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, said trauma-informed training is a great start for educators, but should not be a stopping point.
"The question is after you've done the modular education and training, how you do implement that in your day-to-day work," Sood said.
The COVID-19 pandemic causes anxiety, depression and social issues among children. Sood said she's hopeful that this school year will present fewer challenges.
"I think we're in a better place, I just think the stuff has left in its wake, this phantom of fear, which is there," Sood said.
According to a report in May by the National Center for Education Studies, about 96% of all public schools in the country reported providing mental health services for their students during the 2021-22 school year. However, 56% said they could moderately or strongly agree that they could effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.
About 88% percent of public schools did not strongly agree that they could effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.
Dr. Sood said she's encouraging educators and guardians to be on the lookout for persistent mood and behavior changes as students return to the classroom.
"If you begin to see a lot of signs of introversion, they sit to the side, they don't want to talk to anyone. If a child becomes, on the other hand, very aggressive, they're constantly, sort of, in other children's spaces, cannot keep their hands to themselves, sometimes that can be a symptom of anxiety," Sood said. "If you're seeing persistent problems, you need to be kind of worried."