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Mater Dei Tackles Mental Health Crisis

Mater Dei High School is calling on Children’s Hospital of Orange County to develop mental health and wellness services for its students and staff. 

The private Catholic high school in Santa Ana reopened its doors to its 2,134 students on Sept. 22, after making investments in personal protective equipment, plexiglass, signage, air filters, outdoor tents and technology upgrades. Students that chose to make a physical return were divided into AM and PM groups.

Now Mater Dei is turning its attention to mental health challenges, which CHOC said have increased among children and adolescents as they grapple with the pandemic, social isolation and economic downturn. 

“We are proud to partner with Mater Dei to provide increased mental health support for adolescents, and we commend them for acknowledging that their students’ mental health is as important as their physical health,” CHOC Chief Psychologist Heather Huszti said. 

Planned Classes, Services 

Mater Dei will work with a CHOC psychologist, post-doctoral fellow and doctoral student to develop strategies and services that address COVID-related anxieties and challenges. 

In the first year of the partnership, CHOC said it will help train Mater Dei staff on how to handle students’ mental health needs such as making a successful transition back to in-person learning. 

Mater Dei said it also wants to launch mindfulness and stress reduction classes for its students and provide services to parents with CHOC’s assistance. 

CHOC’s pediatric psychology team will be available to Mater Dei students as well. 

“We look forward to developing a comprehensive approach to wellness and mental health services in the school setting and hope this can serve as a scalable model for others,” Huszti said.

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