COVID-19 Updates from NCSPA

School Safety and Crisis Response Committee

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The NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee serves to promote safe learning environments for North Carolina PreK-12 schools. We provide training, consultation, and supports to promote a comprehensive approach to school safety.

A Message from NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee

NCSPA is working hard to support our membership during this crisis. We have been advocating for licensure flexibility and we are working on developing a crisis response protocol to support school districts! Families across the country are adapting to the evolving changes in daily life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools, places of public gathering, and nonessential businesses are closed, and parents and other caregivers are faced with helping their families adjust to the new normal. This includes trying to keep children occupied, feeling safe, and attempting to keep up with schoolwork as best as possible. None of this easy, but it helps to stay focused on what is possible in order to reinforce a sense of control and to reassure children that they are okay, and that the situation will get better. The NCSPA School Safety has developed this resource to help provide support and resources to you in your roles as your help support the safety and well-being of our students, families, and communities!

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Social Emotional Resources

As the country and the world respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19), we are all feeling a range of emotions. SEL offers a powerful means to explore and express our emotions, build relationships, and support each other – children and adults alike – during this challenging time.

CASEL CARES is a new initiative that connects the SEL community with experts to address how SEL can be most helpful in response to today’s circumstances. Please view these resources from CASEL.

Managing Fears and Anxiety Around the Coronavirus

With news of the COVID-19 virus coming at us from all directions, anxiety is running high, and it's important to stay mindful of self-care. During these unprecedented times of self-quarantine and social distancing, we must all take steps to ensure we stay healthy.

NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee wants to encourage each of you:

  • Find a healthy balance: Limit the time you listen to news about the virus and instead participate in healthy activities. It’s important to engage in a lifestyle that encourages resilience and a healthy balance between work and home life.
  • Keep perspective: Use reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization to find your information. Being educated can help relieve anxiety and speculation.
  • Take care of your body: Stress can impact many parts of our bodies, and can cause shortness of breath, sore muscles and even fatigue. To avoid these side effects, it’s important to take care of your body. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga can all help.

Rapidly changing news can cause anxiety, and your physical and emotional wellness are equally important. Please be mindful of your own personal needs and practice self-care.

Should I be feeling anxious about the coronavirus?

By now, everyone has heard of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a virus that causes cough, fever, and shortness of breath. It was first discovered in China in late 2019 and is now considered a public health emergency and a pandemic. As the situation evolves, many people are experiencing emotions ranging from mild anxiety to serious panic. If you’re feeling anxiety around COVID-19, here are some tips for how to cope with it.

Feeling anxious during a disease outbreak like the coronavirus is normal. In fact, having some anxiety can motivate you to maintain good hygiene habits, like washing your hands more frequently and minimizing contact with other people. Severe anxiety, on the other hand, can be debilitating. You may have too much anxiety about the coronavirus if you:

  • Are preoccupied with thoughts of it for most of the day

  • Are unable to concentrate on other things

  • Have difficulty sleeping and/or eating

If the stress from the coronavirus is worsening a physical or mental health condition or causing you to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, then it is also a problem.

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COVID-19 May Cause Significant Stress for Many: NCSPA Shares Information and Resources

Stress and Coping

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in. People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19

  • Children and teens

  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders

  • People who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns

  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating

  • Worsening of chronic health problems

  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms. Additional information can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website.

Taking care of yourself, your friends, and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger.

Things you can do to support yourself:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.

  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.

  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Reduce stress in yourself and others

  • Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself and people you care about can make an outbreak less stressful.

  • When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.

  • Learn more about taking care of your emotional health.

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What are some tips for dealing with anxiety about the coronovirus?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicked about the coronavirus, you can take steps to help keep your anxiety controlled.

  • Keep your news consumption to two to three credible sources for 30 minutes or less per day: Too much news consumption can make your anxiety worse. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the media coverage of COVID-19, then make an effort to keep it to a minimum. If you notice that you’re anxious at night, avoid the news a few hours before bed.

  • Challenge your irrational thoughts and replace them with facts: Irrational thoughts and beliefs are untrue or exaggerated thoughts about a situation. In contrast, rational thoughts are accurate and based on facts. An example of a rational thought would be: “There is a risk that I could catch the virus. But if I take the recommended precautions, then I will significantly decrease my risk.” Irrational thoughts foster anxiety, while rational thoughts help you view a situation more accurately and calmly.

  • Practice at least 5 minutes of relaxation each day: Counteract your stress with time spent in relaxation. For some people this may mean taking a hot bath, reading a book, or meditating. If you’re unsure what to do, you can try deep breathing, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps induce calm. Start by setting a timer for 5 minutes and sitting in a comfortable space. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it briefly, and then exhale through your nose for 6 seconds. Continue this practice for the remainder of the time.

  • Stay in contact with your support system through phone, internet, and social media: This is very important. Humans are social creatures, and if you have to limit contact with loved ones, it can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Whether you’re quarantined, social distancing, or just being careful, maintain contact with friends and family in whatever way you can.

  • If you’re unable to cope with your anxiety on your own, seek professional help: If you’re concerned about seeing a provider in person, you may be able to meet with a mental health professional through phone or video chat (telehealth). The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act is a new law that allows healthcare providers to bill Medicare for services that are carried out through telehealth. You can call your health insurance company, speak with your physician, or conduct an online search for local mental health professionals.

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What If My Child Gets a Fever, Cough, or Sore Throat? Could it Be Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Parents can reach out and receive supports. Here are some action steps for parents to take if they need support. Talk to a health care provider. You can:

  • Call your doctor. Your doctor knows your child's health history and will know if your child has any special risks. The doctor will ask how your child is doing and if they've been around someone with known or suspected coronavirus. Your doctor's office will tell you what to do next and whether you need an in-person visit.
  • Get a telehealth visit. If this option is available in your area, a health care provider can see your child while you stay at home. If you can, choose a telehealth provider who specializes in caring for kids. If the doctor thinks your child needs care right away, they will guide you on where to go. Check for telehealth in your area now, before anyone in your family is sick.
  • Keep your child home. This keeps your child away from other germs. It also helps prevent your child from spreading the illness to others. If the doctor thinks your child might have coronavirus, the whole family will need to stay home.
  • Try to have one person only care for the sick child so others are not exposed.
  • If your child is sick and is over 2 years old and can wear a face mask or cloth face covering without finding it hard to breathe, have them wear one when the caregiver is in the room. If your child can't wear one, the caregiver should wear one when in the same room. To see how to put on and remove face masks and coverings, clean them, or make your own cloth face covering, check the CDC's guide.
  • If possible, have your sick child use a different bathroom from others. If that isn't possible, wipe down the bathroom often.
  • Everyone in your family should wash their hands well and often. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use regular household cleaners or wipes to clean things that get touched a lot (doorknobs, light switches, toys, remote controls, phones, etc.). Do this every day.
  • Help your child get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids.
  • Watch for signs that your child might need more medical help, such as trouble breathing, fast breathing, sleepiness, not being able to drink a lot of liquids, or signs of dehydration, or going to the restroom less than usual.
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Parent Support for Children Who May Be Dealing with Anxiety

For Parents:

Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.

Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children

  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)

  • Excessive worry or sadness

  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits

  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens

  • Poor school performance or avoiding school

  • Difficulty with attention and concentration

  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past

  • Unexplained headaches or body pain

  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

There are many things you can do to support your child:

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.

  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.

  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.

  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.

  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

  • Learn more about helping children cope.

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Managing Fear and Anxiety Continued...

For Responders:

Responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you. There are things you can do to reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS) reactions:

  • Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.

  • Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).

  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the pandemic.

  • Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, or reading a book.

  • Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.

  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

  • Learn more tips for taking care of yourself during emergency response.

For people who have been released from quarantine:

Being separated from others if a healthcare provider thinks you may have been exposed to COVID-19 can be stressful, even if you do not get sick. Everyone feels differently after coming out of quarantine. Some feelings include :

  • Mixed emotions, including relief after quarantine

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones

  • Stress from the experience of monitoring yourself or being monitored by others for signs and symptoms of COVID-19

  • Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from contact with you, even though you have been determined not to be contagious

  • Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties during quarantine

  • Other emotional or mental health changes

Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has been released from quarantine. You can help your child cope.

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How can I help children cope with anxiety about the coronavirus?

Children and teens may also feel anxious about COVID-19, especially if they receive false information or mixed messages. The best way to help your child understand the coronavirus depends upon their age and maturity level. But in general, consider the following tips:

  • Stay calm when talking about the virus in front of your children: Remember that you are a model for your child. If they see you panicking, then their anxiety will go up, too. Make an effort to remain calm when speaking about the coronavirus to them or when they might overhear.

  • Stick to the facts, keep it brief, and allow them to ask questions: School-aged children are most likely going to hear about COVID-19 from peers or other adults, so not discussing it can be confusing. However, sharing a large amount of information could be overwhelming. So you want to strike a balance between being open and honest without sharing too much. When talking to children, explain the basic facts without going into details and give them a chance to talk about how they feel and ask questions.

  • Explain steps that they can take to reduce their risk: Giving your child things to do that can help them prevent the virus can increase their sense of control over the situation. Discuss how properly washing their hands and eating and sleeping well can help keep them healthy.

  • Limit your child’s news exposure: The exact limits will depend upon their age. Young children should not have access to news at all and should only hear about the virus from you. Older children may want to read or watch the news to feel more in control and aware. Allow them some exposure, but keep it limited to once a day. Remember that your children are observing your habits, so stick to the limits that you set for yourself as well.

  • Encourage children to have fun in different ways: If your child loves to spend time with other kids, you may wonder how you can allow them to still have fun while limiting their contact with other people. Consider creative ways to have fun, like family game or movie nights, making a fort at home, or giving them a cooking lesson.

COVID-19 Thoughts

COVID-19 is a complex condition that is not yet fully understood. What we do know is that it can cause symptoms that range from mild to severe, and in some cases can lead to death. You can reduce the likelihood of developing the virus by washing your hands often and avoiding anyone who is ill. Be prepared and take action to prevent the coronavirus, but avoid panicking about the situation. If you find yourself experiencing significant worry that interferes with your ability to eat, sleep, work, or keep up with your responsibilities, then take action to reduce your anxiety.

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Where can I get more information and resources?

There is a lot of information being reported on the coronavirus from a variety of sources. Some media outlets are using scientific and medical sources, but others are relying on personal opinions. Receiving false or exaggerated information may increase your anxiety.

It is important to get information from credible sources that are relying on the latest research. Consider seeking your information from places like the:

For more information on how to help you and your family cope with coronavirus anxiety, see tips from the following places:

If you’re having a hard time dealing with your anxiety, you can also reach out to SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline. You can reach a trained counselor by calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746. The helpline is available 24/7 and provides confidential crisis counseling.

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline offers free and confidential support. It is available 24/7 and provides services to anyone who speaks Spanish or is deaf or hard of hearing.

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National Association of School Psychologist Resources

NASP has provided a great deal of resources to help support the learning and well-being of students, their families and others in the school community during the COVID-19 crisis. While you can find these on the NASP Resource Site, we wanted to also link some of them here for you!

Please make sure to visit the COVID-19 NASP Resource Center for great resources- click here for link.

NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee Members

Dr. Stephanie Lowe Ellis, Ed.D., NCSP; Chair of NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee; Executive Director of Behavioral Health, Crisis Intervention, and Student Safety in Rockingham County Schools

Liz Martin, NCSPA Past President

School Psychologist in Guilford County Schools

Amy Lowder; Committee Member

Director of School Wellness and Student Safety in Cabarrus County Schools

Lynn Makor; Committee Member

School Psychology Consultant Department of Public Instruction

Amy Ivey, NASP Delegate; Committee Member

Lead School Psychologist Wayne County Schools

Dr. Melissa Reeves, Committee Member

Associate Professor at Winthrop University

Past President of NASP

Co-Author of PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention Curriculum

Dr. Jim Deni, Committee Member

School Psychologist Professor for School Psychology Graduate Program

Appalachian State University

Dr. Lori Unruh, Committee Member

Coordinator of School Psychology Graduate Program

Western Carolina University

Caron Nowell Parrish, NCSPA President, Committee Member

School Psychology Coordinator in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Fiona Debartolo, Committee Member

School Psychologist inCharlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Corliss Thompson-Drew, Committee Member

Director of Psychological Services Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Meagan Bergeron, Committee Member

School Psychologist in Rockingham County Schools

*Please email if you have any questions for our committee!

NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committeee

Stephanie Lowe Ellis, Ed.D., NCSP

Chair of NCSPA School Safety and Crisis Response Committee

Please feel free to contact our members or our chair for questions! Please check us out on NCSPA Webpage at !!