Mitchell County Middle School students learn about impacts of social isolation

Dr. Charles Ruis, health director of Southwest Health District 8-2, gives an update on the novel coronavirus during a news conference. Middle School students in Mitchel County were among those at four Georgia schools systems who participated in a recent virtual initiative discussing social isolation.

ALBANY — Mitchell County Middle School was among four Georgia schools that participated this month in a nationwide initiative designed to promote inclusion among students, reinforcing a lesson made more vital by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual program, held between Feb. 10 and Feb. 12 with the help of the Peach State Health Plan, also included middle school students from Gainesville, North Clayton County and Cirrus Academy. The Peach State Health Plan hosted the online event in honor of No One Eats Alone Day, created by the nonprofit Beyond Differences.

Social isolation affects millions of students and has been identified as a precursor to bullying, self-harm, and community violence. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, promoting mental health has gained increased importance, as students deal with the additional stressors from the pandemic and quarantining. Through No One Eats Alone, students have shown that if they are given the tools, they will stand up for others as empathetic and caring activists, not passive bystanders.

“At Peach State Health Plan we’re committed to helping children lead healthier lives, and that includes providing them with safe environments to discuss challenges, especially amid COVID-19,” said Peach State Health Plan President and CEO Wade Rakes. “We are proud to partner with Beyond Difference to virtually celebrate No One Eats Alone Day and give students in Georgia the tools they need to remain focused on their health and social lives.”

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More than 230 Mitchell County students participated in activities designed to teach them about social isolation and the negative impact it can have on health and academic performance. Students were able to participate in fun and engaging activities, paired with video demonstrations and promotional items for school staff to use with them.

“The pandemic has given us all a taste of social isolation and the desire to feel connected,” said Laura Talmus, co-founder and executive director of Beyond Differences. “Students and teachers need No One Eats Alone — now more than ever — to continue changing the culture in middle schools to be a more welcoming place for everyone regardless of their differences.”

The four Georgia schools joined more than 2,500 schools across the country that celebrated No one Eats Alone Day. The initiative reached more than one million students in all 50 states.

No One Eats Alone Day is sponsored by the Centene Charitable Foundation.

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