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School counselors and mobile crisis teams collaborate to stabilize and support students

Posted at 3:45 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 21:37:53-05

PHOENIX — It's already dark when the Terros Health mobile crisis team wrapped up at Pendergast Elementary School one October evening.

The team spent two hours working with a child needing immediate intervention, helping the parents and school counselor with next steps.

RELATED: Mobile crisis responders provide alternative to police, paramedics

These scenes are more common at schools than you might think, according to two counselors who work in the Pendergast Elementary School District.

“There are some years we may have a lot of social-emotional issues, and I may call 3, 4, 5 times,” said Meredith Sargol, a counselor at Desert Horizon Elementary.

School counselors in Arizona have master’s degrees and can assist children with many mental health, behavioral, and developmental issues. However, they say community crisis services can sometimes bring a second opinion or additional community resources for families in the most serious cases.

“For the most part it will be for self-harm, including suicide,” said Nicholas Covert, a counselor at Sunset Ridge Elementary.

“They are able to do things that we cannot do,” Sargol said. “Especially saying we are going to call ahead to a hospital and make sure there’s a bed available.”

These school counselors said they've found kids experiencing additional social-emotional challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of anxiety about what has happened, what could happen in the future for the family, which is maybe currently sick, or if they have family in other parts of the country, or in another country, they’re not able to see them not being able to know what’s going on,” Sargol explained.

Grief is another big issue for little kids. The child could be experiencing the death of a loved one, or students could be facing grief due to other factors like loss of time or loss of a relationship.

“The human connection for a long period of time was lost outside of the family,” Covert said.

From the classroom to the playground, counselors also see students who have forgotten, or are behind on, socialization skills. They encourage kids and their families to work on empathy and respecting other people's differences.

Suicide and Crisis Hotlines by County

  • Maricopa County served by Mercy Care

    • 1-800-631-1314 or 602-222-9444 
  • Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yuma Counties served by Arizona Complete Health - Complete Care Plan

    • 1-866-495-6735 
  • Apache, Coconino, Gila, Mohave, Navajo and Yavapai Counties served by Health Choice Arizona

    • 1-877-756-4090 
  • Gila River and Ak-Chin Indian Communities

    • 1-800-259-3449 
  • Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community

    • 1-855-331-6432 
  • Tohono O’odham Nation

    • 1-844-423-8759 

Teenage specific Hotline

  • Teen Life Line phone or text

    • 602-248-TEEN (8336) 

National 24-Hour Crisis Hotlines

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    • 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 
  • National Substance Use and Disorder Issues Referral and Treatment Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) 
  • Text the word "HOME" to 741741 

COVID-19 Crisis Counseling

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