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The echo of Kerch tragedy. School psychologists’ job

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School psychologist Evgeniy Sysoev holds several individual consultations every day. The 7th and 8th grades are considered high-risk category – drugs and suicide. This school, where he works permanently, aside he part-times in another two, which have no specialists on staff.

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Evgeniy Sysoev, teacher and psychologist: “Kindergartens almost have no psychologists. And there are not many in schools either. I come in for a day and manage to see some of those in need, but not everyone. Feels like I did the job, but there are still issues remaining”.

Having a psychologist on staff at schools is welcomed, yet not obligatory in St. Petersburg. Official norm – one specialist per every 700 students. And such employee has no actual powers.

  • Are you entitled – if you see a problem with a child – to insist, not recommend, to parents that this child need special attention?

Evgeniy Sysoev, teacher and psychologist: “We cannot make them. Even in serious situations – when we feel that the condition is serious and demands psychiatric help – we still cannot make parents take action, no”.

In the digital age – when teenagers on social media put up videos of firing at the police and discuss suicide – this is simply unacceptable, says psychologist Alexandra Alexanyan. We are watching Diana Arbenina’s music video – it is based on a tragic story of Pskov’s pupils, who 2 years ago committed suicide and informed millions of social media users about it in real-time.

The singer explained – her song is about finding a solution to any situation. The psychologist believes that teenagers would see romantics of these lovers’ situation in this clip. And they would want to replicate that.

The information flow which you cannot escape. Video games where you can take any weapon and shoot anyone. Groups on social media where teenagers are being urged into committing a crime – before they reach the age when this would be classified as a crime. All that gives more and more work to the school psychologists. Alexandra cites the story of one of her school’s students. The 7th grade pupil has been depressed for several years now.

  • He is emotionally unstable. I cannot diagnose him and his medical card says he’s ok. But he has occasional hysterias and inadequate behavior. I’ve been observing this child for three years now and cannot get through to his parents.

The boy’s parents received several recommendations to see a neurologist and a psychiatrist, but they have not taken their son to either.

Alexandra has no legal right to urge the parents to take their child to a serious specialist. And no one knows how the boy will behave in a month, a year or five years. The shooter at Kerch was 18 years old. Officially an adult, but in reality still just a kid with serious personal problems since the young age. Which means no one paid attention to a child who had been suffering from serious internal conflicts for years.

  • We need to organize a program to help Sasha in different aspects. The situation there is serious – we know that he now lives with his father, who has bad health. It affects him, and he also skips a lot of classes.

Only schools with full-fledged psychological service can have such detailed discussion of their students’ problems. When they have a capability of monitoring mental health of students – even those who seem absolutely fine.

Anna Litvina, teacher and psychologist at academic gymnasium #56: “Of course, we have managed to expose very serious problems. For instance, we recently worked with a child who displayed suicidal tendencies. Even parents didn’t see that. We saw that during conversations with him, and then it was backed up by more substantial checks. We put the child through activities and are trying to pay maximum attention to him.”

This school even has relaxation rooms for teachers. Dimmed lights, massage chair and music. Every year school psychologists have 700-800 inquiries. The number is shocking, but it also means that neither the students nor teachers are afraid of seeking professional help. Although in many schools teachers see this as unnecessary and try to fix things in an old-fashioned way.

Evgeniy Sysoev, teacher and psychologist: “It often happens that you arrive too late – to face a critical situation. And when you talk to teachers, you learn that a child had let them know things were not ok. But for some reason they did not react, thinking it was not necessary”

After the tragedy in Kerch, education minister Olga Vasilyeva said that every school in Russia needs to employ a psychologist. St. Petersburg’s experts insist that kindergartens also need it – because that’s where many issues of the adults are stemming from. But not one psychological service would be able to replace the real attention to your own child or a classmate. When just one word could change one’s fate and is likely to prevent a tragedy.

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