Amidst rising mental health concerns for Pennsylvania youths, Independence Health System is bringing back an annual children’s mental health education event for therapists and other care providers for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The Children’s Mental Health Symposium, scheduled at Latrobe Hospital on Oct. 5, will provide free continuing education training for mental health providers across the region. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Speakers will discuss the best ways to help children experiencing mental health problems or abuse, and give advice to care providers on how to care for their own mental health in an environment of rising burnout.
The event was spearheaded 12 years ago by outpatient behavioral health therapist Marcie Stover-Jividen. It was last held in 2019, before the advent of covid-19.
Past iterations of the event have focused on other specific facets of youth mental health care, including trauma, ADHD medication, play therapy, and eating disorders.
Stover-Jividen says the continuing education event is a chance for local therapists and mental health professionals to gather and compare ways to support children dealing with increasing struggles. She is a school-based therapist with the Greater Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant Area school districts. The event is being held in conjunction with the National Association of Social Workers’ Pennsylvania Chapter.
“Children’s mental health is quite different from the adult world, so we have unique things we need to learn,” she said. “We have an ethical mandate to have the latest information, (and) we have a moral desire to do the best work for these young people. We want them to be mentally well, physically well, and emotionally well.”
Mental health issues have been on the rise for children in Pennsylvania and nationwide since the start of the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office released a Special Report on Student Mental Health in 2022, which found that more than 70% of the tips to the state’s Safe2Say Something student anonymous reporting system since 2019 have focused on difficulties with mental health or bullying.
A recent CDC study found that in 2021, nationwide, 15% of children 5- to 17-years-old had received mental health treatment of some sort in the past year.
Anecdotally, Stover-Jividen says therapists and other providers are extremely busy. They have seen a tidal wave of students in need of mental health help.
“We always say that all of the young people we are serving are more of what they were prior to covid,” she said. “A lot them came to us traumatized initially, and covid was another kind of trauma. We have this shared trauma of covid, and we are also still just trying to stay afloat.”
Topics of discussion
Lorin Zimmerman, an outpatient therapist at Latrobe Hospital Outpatient Behavioral Health, will speak about how mental health care providers can stay on top of their own self-care.
“Therapists are feeling a lot of burnout and mental health is currently a very utilized service,” said Stover-Jividen. “We’re feeling the difficulty of helping these children on the other side of this covid situation, (who are) much less well than they were going into it.”
Haley Brothers of Westmoreland County Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will speak about handling care for youths with a higher level of need. Mark Nuzzo of Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance will present on mandated reporter training, and on how mandated reporters can respond when a child tells them that they have been abused.
“When a child or an adolescent does disclose abuse to a therapist or a medical professional, there’s a certain style in how we are expected to respond — how we ask the next question in the moment with a child,” Stover-Jividen said.
Alongside its educational value, Stover-Jividen said, the symposium helps build community among the upwards of 50 local therapists scheduled to attend.
“It allows us a day to learn from each other, support each other, and look around and say we aren’t islands doing this work alone,” she said. “Vicarious trauma is a real problem, and part of that is that loneliness, feeling like I’m the only person in these murky waters. And you’re not.”
From Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 29, 2023