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Mental Health Wellness

Mental Health Wellness is a Priority in Our Schools

On August 31, 2016, National Public Radio launched “The Mental Health Crisis in Schools,” a month-long special series reporting on the depth and breadth of student mental health disorders and how they affect schools and learning. For many, this series was an important introduction to a complex topic that has been long-appreciated by those who work in public education. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) also recognizes the growing need for additional supports and resources for schools to help address mental health wellness. A list of resources can be found on their webpage - Mental Health and Schools at the following link: http://www.k12.wa.us/MentalHealthandSchools/default.aspx. As these issues continue to gain nationwide attention, I have been asked what local supports are available, how our schools are addressing mental health concerns, and how families can help. I hope you find the following information regarding staffing, partnerships, professional development, and curriculum helpful.

 

Staffing: We’ve hired additional counselors at the secondary and elementary levels. Each school has a least one counselor. Counselors focus on three essential components – academic, career, and social emotional development. In addition, we recently hired a school-based mental health therapist.

 

Partnerships: We work with several community partners to facilitate our students’ access to resources available in the community. These partnerships include:

  • Palouse River Counseling provides individual support and programming for students and families based on a wraparound philosophy of care.
  • Washington State University – Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience (CLEAR) currently partners with Sunnyside Elementary in the promotion of trauma-informed practices aimed at professionals’ ability to enhance healthy student development and academic success.
  • Washington State University Athletics—Behind Happy Faces is a program that empowers young people to start talking about issues and break the stigma associated with mental illness.

 

Professional development course offerings and presentations: Our staff, including teachers and paraeducators, receives directed and self-directed trainings. Training topics are based on staff surveys designed for noting needs and preferences. In the past two years, some of these learning opportunities have included:

  • Socio-Emotional Learning – Practices and strategies to help students build awareness and skills managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions
  • Differentiated Instruction - Practices and strategies for meeting the needs of different learners through varying content, process, and product
  • Mental and Physical Health – Practical tips and information to support students with mental & physical health struggles including depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, addiction, anxiety and other areas.
  • Various speakers covering topics such as:
    •  Autism
    • Social Emotional Learning
    • Anxiety

 

Curriculum: Using our curriculum adoption process, we are moving toward adoption of a Social Emotional curriculum for next year.

  • Second Step™ – Social Emotional Curriculum for K-5

 

Additional Information:

OSPI describes social emotional learning (SEL) as: “When we think of educating the whole child, their social and emotional development must be considered as a part of overall instruction. SEL is broadly understood as a process through which individuals build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships, and making responsible decisions that support success in school and in life.” All of our students receive social and emotional education using age-appropriate curriculum. In addition, because each student has unique needs, we have many other resources available to our teachers for use on a case by case basis to best serve their students’ needs. If you have any questions about our social emotional learning curriculum and resources, or about our dedication to mental health wellness supports, please contact Megan Itani, Director of Special Services at mitani@psd267.org. If you think your student may benefit from additional SEL or mental health supports, we encourage you to reach out to the counselor at your student’s school.

 

I hope you find this information helpful.

 

Sincerely,

Bob Maxwell, Superintendent.