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Nonprofit Offers Digital Mental Health Services for Students

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DES MOINES, Iowa — We are entering yet another week with no school due to the coronavirus. That means another week without the traditional services kids are used to — including school mental health programs.

The nonprofit Please Pass the Love usually provides those services to central Iowa students throughout the school year and recognizes some students may need that help more than ever right now. That’s why it started to provide services digitally.

“The mental health impact of COVID-19 will far outlast the virus itself,” Dr. Jennifer Ulie-Wells, the Executive Director for Please Pass the Love said. “So we want to make sure we are taking opportunities now to embed high levels of prevention including programming for young people to connect with other people, especially in times of social isolation. That’s not neurotypical for adolescents to be isolated away, so we want to offer lots of opportunities for them to connect, engage and be supportive of each other.”

There is a wide range of free resources and programming on their website for kids of all ages. There are social-emotional services like art shares, which are ways for students to showcase some creative pieces they’ve been working on. Dr. Ulie-Wells said many are using art as a coping mechanism right now. There are also platforms for teens to simply hang out, and chat.

Beyond the social-emotional services, there are also resources for self-care or mindfulness, not to mention other resources for parents and teachers to help while at home.

Dr. Ulie-Wells said they knew they had to step up even when school is out because, on a good day, suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people in Iowa.

“With COVID-19 we want to make sure we are ramping up opportunities for others to communicate and have a safe space for support. Our middle school and high school meet ups are a place to interact with each other and interact with staff. There’s some trivia and other fun things as well, but it’s also an opportunity to just vent. For young people it’s frustrating. For adults it’s frustrating. So for young people to be able to vent it out and get affirmed that however they are feeling is exactly how they should be feeling is really helpful,” Dr. Ulie-Wells said.

They also have programming for elementary students. One is called “books and buddies” which is a digital story time. Dr. Ulie-Wells said a staff member who lives on a farm runs that program and is using their farm animals to help really make stories come to life.

For more information on Please Pass the Love’s services click here.

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