Camila’s first panic attack happened during the summer before second grade, right after her parents split up. She had always been anxious, but after the divorce, she refused to leave her mother’s side. She begged her mother to stay with her at school, and sobbed as her mother walked toward the car. For the rest of the school day she was silent in class, and at recess she played alone.
Every morning was a battle, and her parents were at the end of their rope. It was exhausting, and they didn’t know what to do for their headstrong, anxious daughter. They came to Fred Finch for help, and Camilla was enrolled in the School-Based Services program (SBS).
SBS helps students with anxiety and other mental health challenges that keep youth from succeeding in school. “We do cognitive behavioral therapy to helps kids identify and challenge their negative thinking,” said Joslin Herberich, Senior Director at Fred Finch. “Motivational Interviewing has also been very effective. And mindfulness. We do a lot of breathing, slowing down, taking breaths. These approaches give kids some very concrete tools they can use."
Clinicians also collaborate with teachers and parents. For Camilla, this meant that all the adults in her life gave her a consistent message: You’re going to get through this. We’re here to help you. You’re safe.
"Because of SBS, kids are more able to show up in school, focus on their work, form positive relationships and be successful,” Herberich explains. Camila’s therapist used sandtray therapy and art to help her express difficult feelings. Her anxiety decreased and her confidence grew.
Soon she could start the school day without tears, and a few months later she allowed her mother to drop her off at the curb, cheerfully waving goodbye as the car pulled away. From that day on she arrived early at her classroom and volunteered to help the teacher. She asked questions in class and talked with other students. And she finally found a group of friends.
Note: Names and identifying information have been changed to protect the identity of ou participants.
For more information on our work at Fred Finch Youth & Family Services, check out our website www.fredfinch.org