Judging by the initial response, the appetite for practical, professional mental health advice among parents and others in the Denair community is strong. More than 860 views have been logged since the first video featuring Stanford psychiatrist Dr. Neha Chaudhary talking about signs of childhood depression and ways to combat it was posted on Jan. 19 on the Denair Unified School District Facebook page.
Chaudhary followed up the video on Jan. 26 with the first of two hourlong Zoom sessions – opportunities for parents and others to ask questions and learn more about the subject. Thirteen people participated in the first Zoom session, according to Denair Superintendent Terry Metzger. A second session is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 2 from noon to 1 p.m.
A link to sign up for the session in advance is posted on the district’s website. Attendees who register will then be sent a direct link to the Zoom session. They also will be able to pose questions ahead of time for Chaudhary to answer to avoid any unease that may come by asking them when others can hear during the Zoom discussion.
In an effort to focus and guide the conversation, Metzger said there will be a maximum of 20 participants allowed in the Zoom sessions.
Spanish translation of the videos and the Zoom calls will be available upon request.
Chaudhary is a Harvard-trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and founder of Stanford Brainstorm, which was started in 2016 as the world’s first academic lab dedicated to mental health innovation and entrepreneurship.
The video on childhood depression and two follow-up Zoom discussions are the first parts of what is intended to be a yearlong series. On the first Tuesday of each month, the district will post another video with Chaudhary introducing a specific mental health topic. Then, on the following two Tuesdays, the Zoom sessions will be scheduled to allow parents and others to talk with Chaudhary and delve more deeply into the topic.
The arrangement is believed to be the first of its kind in Stanislaus County and among just a handful nationwide.
The program is being funded through a grant from Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock, which has worked with the district on a variety of other health initiatives.
The timing of the new program is directly related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Denair’s 1,300 students, their families and school employees, Metzger said. Most students have been taught exclusively via distance learning since Denair’s four campuses were closed in March. The situation has created stress at every level of the education system.
Metzger described Chaudhary’s role as instructional rather than clinical. The goal is to give parents tangible resources and information that will help them with any issues their children may be experiencing. A second part of the mental health initiative involves the district surveying teachers about mental health topics they’d like to discuss with an expert. Once that information has been collected, Metzger said, Chaudhary will conduct a combination of teaching and drop-in sessions “to help teachers build their own understanding and hopefully apply their learning to their work with students as well as in their own lives and families.”