Mar 10, 2021

School Social Work Month: Adapting to Virtual Mental Health First Aid

March is national School Social Work Month! Grant Wood Area Education Agency’s own school social workers have given us plenty to celebrate this year.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is a state initiative that teaches educators, at no cost to them or their school districts, how to intervene with a student who may be experiencing a mental health challenge. Nancy Veldhuizen and Lynne Currie, two Grant Wood AEA school social workers, recently led a virtual youth mental health first aid training over Zoom. 

Training virtually has come with some challenges. Nancy and Lynne adjusted their presentation in order to keep School Social Work Month | Grant Wood A E A Prideparticipants engaged. “Although we are fortunate to teach a virtual version of Mental Health First Aid, it is much more difficult to ‘read’ the group.” shares Nancy. “There seems to be more time for personal reflection rather than group discussion in the virtual version.” Additionally, they’ve also needed to spend some time practicing the technology in order to be prepared to effectively host the virtual sessions.

But regardless of these obstacles, Nancy and Lynne underscored the importance of mental health training though the pandemic. “The pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and has provided opportunities for increasing awareness and addressing needed changes at both the system and individual level,” commented Lynne. “One in five youth will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime, and many of these disorders show up in childhood or adolescence. Early intervention is key in preventing symptoms from becoming more serious, and this first aid training teaches school staff to recognize and support students who may be struggling,” added Nancy.

Ambre Chittenden, another Grant Wood AEA school social worker who leads some of the agency’s mental health first aid training also suggests the pandemic has revealed the importance of these services. “The pandemic has spotlighted the need for social/emotional/behavioral health, not only for students but adults as well,” she said. “As a leader, it’s important to allow time during meetings and or in conversations with staff to check-in with them and provide those meaningful opportunities for connection. It’s also crucial to give others (and ourselves) some grace.” Ambre hopes this lesson can continue even after the pandemic.

If you or a colleague are interested in attending the next virtual Mental Health First Aid training, please register today for either the April or May opportunities. And thank you to these social workers and all of our social workers for their contributions to the support and wellbeing of our students and families.

Grant Wood AEA has several school social workers on the Iowa School Social Worker Association (ISSWA) Board
  • Lindsey Kutcher: President-Elect
  • Maggie Arnold: Liaison/Social Media Chair
  • Sam Bennet-Garcia: Membership Chair
  • Julie King: Legislative and Advocacy Committee
  • Kimberly Phillips: Elected Member-at-Large/Conference Committee/Recognition Chair
  • Ambre Chittenden: Elected Member-at-Large/Conference Committee  


School Social Work Discipline has created a leadership team
  • Ambre Chittenden: Co-Lead (10 years)
  • Julie King: Co-Lead (5 yrs)
  • Erica Buffington - Leadership Team Member (1 year)
  • Shana Wagner -  Leadership Team Member (1 year )
  • Amy Thompson-Thye -  Leadership Team Member (year 1)
  • Jill Weigel - RA Link 

Category: The Linker