Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Disaster Resources for School Counselors

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It is hard to believe that 2017 is coming to an end in three weeks! Being an eternal optimist, I love to see each year end on a positive note; however, 2017 may disappoint me...sigh.

Looking back over this year, the United States (and many other countries for that fact) has seen its fair share of natural and human disasters. Here is a quick highlight of some of these US disasters over the last year.



Hurricanes

2017 saw over 204 storms making it one of the top 10 busiest seasons in the Atlantic Basin.  Many communities, such as Miami and Houston, experienced devastation and flooding.

Source: The Weather Channel

Wildfires

This year over 1,1 million acres have been burned in Northern and Southern California due to drought and windy conditions.  2017 is now considered as the second worst season in acres burned since 1987!


Acts of Terrorism

In 2017, there have been 10 violent acts of terrorism against US citizens from Florida to Las Vegas.

January
  • 5 killed and 6 injured in a mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.
  • Fatal shooting of Denver Transit Authority Guard.
March
  • Stabbing attack in New York City.
June
  • Shooting attack targeting Republican lawmakers (5 wounded).
  August
  • Vehicle attack of protestors (1 protestor killed).    
September
  • Church shooting in Tennessee (attacker killed).
October
  • Shooting at concert in Las Vegas (59 concert goers killed and 527 injured).
  • Attacker killed 8 when he drove into a bike path in New York City.
November
  • Church shooting in Texas (27 killed and 30 wounded).
December
  • Pipe bomb exploded injuring 3 people in New York City.


School Shootings

In 2017, there have been three school shootings.  Here is a list of school shootings that have occurred this year.

April

North Park Elementary School, San Bernardino, California
Teacher killed by estranged husband and 2 students are wounded.

September

Freeman High School, Spokane, Washington
One student killed and 3 wounded by a Sophomore student.

December

Aztec High School, Aztec, New Mexico
After illegally trespassing on campus,  a former student kills 2 students and then dies by suicide.


Role of the School Counselor During Disaster

Truly, 2017 was a year full of tragedy and confusion!  Unfortunately, these types of events often  have devastating impacts on our students and families.  More than ever, school counselors need to be trauma informed experts

Exactly what is a trauma informed expert?  In 2016, ASCA created a position statement describing the role of the school counselor in promoting trauma sensitive environments in their school community.  

Role of a Trauma Informed School Counselor

ASCA gives clear guidance on how to become a trauma informed school counselor.

• recognize the signs of trauma in students
• understand traumas need not predict individual failure if sufficient focus on resilience and strengths is present
• avoid practices that may re-traumatize students
• create connected communities and positive school climates that are trauma-sensitive to keep students healthy and in school and involved in positive social networks
• implement effective academic and behavioral practices, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and social and emotional learning
• promote safe, stable and nurturing relationships
• provide community resource information to students and families dealing with trauma
• educate staff on the effects of trauma and how to refer students to the school counselor
• collaborate with community resources to provide support for students
• promote a trauma-sensitive framework for policies, procedures and behaviors to entire staff
• recognize the role technology can play in magnifying trauma incidents for students
                                                                       
What to know more about trauma informed practices?  Check out the link for training from ASCA...


Also, want to do more for your community?  Consider becoming as a Disaster Mental Health Volunteer with Red Cross.  You will learn how to respond in a disaster,  Psychological First Aid skills, and much more!  I have served as a DMH Volunteer for two years!!



Resources for School Counselors

I feel that it is important for school counselors to have research based resources.  If you need resources for your school, that has experienced a natural or human disaster,  check out the list of resources below.

Wildfires




NCTSN-Wildfires

Coping with Trauma and Stress in the Face of Wildfires

Tips for Managing Stress After Wildfires

Terrorism


NCTSN: Talking to Students About Bombings

NCTSN: Terrorism Resources

Natural Disasters




Disaster Distress Helpline

Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After a Disaster

Helping Kids During a Crisis

Other Resources

School Crisis Guide

Trauma Resources for Teachers

Resources from For High School Counselors

School Shootings and the School Counselor




School Counselor Resources for Displaced Students

Trauma Informed Resources for School Counselors
Here is to a better 2018!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Guest Post: Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling

Saturday, November 25, 2017



Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling

By: Sheldon Soper

I am pleased to have a quality piece written by Sheldon Soper on the misconceptions about school counseling.  

Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter @SoperWritings and on his blog. 

Four Major Misconceptions about School Counseling


It takes dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate professionals to help students achieve academic success. Still, today’s students face a litany of challenges that reach far beyond academics.

Stakeholders like teachers, tutors, administrators, and parents all play key roles in helping students succeed. Often overlooked, the school counselor is actually one of the most vital yet underappreciated pieces in the support equation. Part of the reason for this oversight is that there are numerous misconceptions about what a school counselor actually does.
I spoke with two accomplished school counselors about these misconceptions in an effort to unpack the vital roles school counseling plays in fostering a positive and productive school community.
Our conversations provided eye-opening insights into just how much effort, passion, flexibility, and expertise go into being a school counselor.

Misconception 1: “Aren’t school counselors just guidance counselors?”

In recent years, there has been a deliberate shift away from using the term “guidance counselor” to describe counselors in schools. One of the main reasons for the evolution is that the guidance counselor archetype from decades past represents only a fraction of what modern school counseling encompasses. Gone are the days where a counselor’s role began and ended with college and career prep.
Hence, there is potential harm in failing to distance the profession and its efforts from the preconceptions tied to the antiquated title. Phyllis Fagell explains:
“I think some people think that school counselors are solely paper pushers or schedulers or involved in discipline. School counselors have master’s degrees and use data, creativity, and evidence-based practices to remove barriers to learning. Many of us are licensed mental health professionals as well[.]”
Some counselors, like Barbara Gruener, acknowledge the rationale for the shift, but find ways to repurpose the term as a reflection of the amazing work today’s school counselors actually do.
“I think a perception about school counseling might still be that we are guidance counselors just focused on college and careers like way back when. [...] I don’t mind the word guidance personally, because I like to think of myself as a guide through a child’s journey down Character Road, but I get the semantics behind the reframe, because we do so much more.”
For many, the term guidance counselor still carries with it overly simplified connotations of the position’s role in the educational landscape. By renaming the profession with a title reflective of its school-wide importance, the value of a counselor’s impact on the learning community is less likely to be overlooked.

Misconception 2: “School counselors stir up and validate student drama.”

Spend enough time in schools (or raising teenagers) and your head will spin with the amount of focus kids put on their peer relationships. With the advent of social media and smart phones, students now carry their social lives in their pockets everywhere they go.
One of the negative consequences of this evolution is that since there are now so many new platforms where students’ relationships with each other can play out, there are that many more opportunities for potential misunderstandings, conflicts, and even bullying.
School counseling plays a key role in helping students navigate the social and emotional challenges of a socially interconnected world. By offering students opportunities where they can speak freely with reasonable assurances of confidence, counselors give students the opportunity to have their thoughts and feelings heard by an unbiased third party.
However, the work doesn’t stop there. Counseling is not just a venue for students to gain adult validation for their social concerns. Gruener describes:
“School counselors are connectors. We help students connect to one another and to their friends. We help them build healthy relationships based on good character choices. We stretch and nourish those glorious virtues like empathy, compassion, and kindness so that they position themselves to be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.”
Helping students foster these types of relationships can have positive implications for their academic success as well. Fagel attests, “[W]e know that a kid in crisis won’t perform well academically. We need to educate the whole child and teach soft skills such as conflict resolution”.
Effective school counseling does not perpetuate interpersonal student issues; it is instrumental in both solving and preventing them.

Misconception 3: “Only the troubled kids see the school counselor.”

The link between the term counseling and the field of mental health leads to a common misconception about a school counselor’s clientele.
School counselors do offer support and coping mechanisms to those in need. Gruener clarifies:
“We connect people to resources when the game of life throws them a curveball. Families fall apart, pets and/or people pass away, parents fall on hard times, things change ... Feelings get tender, raw, hurt, so we’re there to help [people] bounce forward into their new normal, to see that sometimes when it feels like we’re buried, we’re really just planted.”
Nevertheless, the services of the school counselor are not limited to those in times of emotional distress. As Gruener also articulates, “the perception that if you see the counselor you might be in trouble - or worse, troubled - couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
It is common for parents, teachers, and administrators to seek out a school counselor’s expert advice on any number of student-related issues. While the majority of conversations during counseling remain in confidence, the unique and unprejudiced perspectives of school counselors provide benefits to all members of the school community’s stakeholders.
Fagel recounts some of these types of experiences from her career:
“Over the years I’ve testified in court, made home visits, scheduled courses, guided parents through the special education process, helped facilitate communication between home and school, and taught kids everything from cyber-civility to mindfulness.”
School counselors like Fagel, Gruener, and others like them, possess a wide range of expertise and regularly are called upon to put it to use in service of a community much broader than just troubled students.

Misconception 4: “School counselors only do ‘X’.”

School counseling takes on numerous forms depending on the needs of a school and its population.
The reality is, today’s school counselors have to wear many hats. Unfortunately, as with countless professions, there is a tendency to try to oversimplify the job description in such a way that undercuts the versatility and diversity of their work.
As Fagell stresses, “There’s really no ‘typical’ for a school counselor.” She elaborates:
“School counselors attend to students’ academic performance and mental health, impart social-emotional skills and help them plan for the future. They work with kids individually, in groups, and in the classroom, but they also strategize with teachers and administrators, provide parent education and support, create programming and collaborate with outside professionals. Sometimes they need to function more like social workers, securing resources for families in crisis.”
For education veteran Gruener, she has filled similar roles working under the title of school counselor. Beyond counseling students, she has also tackled additional responsibilities ranging from the social media specialist to the service-learning coordinator. She monitors lunch duty and also serves as the mandated reporter of abuse or neglect.
These trained professionals, like many counselors in schools across the country, possess skills, training, and perspectives uniquely suited for optimizing student growth and aiding the key players in the process.
The counseling school counselors provide extends well beyond the classroom; counselors support the whole child, not just the part that exists within the school walls.
“We’re not the guidance counselors of past generations,” asserts Fagell. “That said, I think there’s a trend toward appreciating the critical role that counselors play in the school setting.”
She continues:
"School counselors know that if we want to prepare kids for the future, we need to look beyond math or social studies. Students need to be resourceful, responsible, considerate and willing to take risks. […] Teachers know that creativity, collaboration and resilience matter as much as academics, but the problem is that those traits are harder to measure than grades and test scores.”
Therein lies the major complication in both defining school counseling and highlighting the importance of school counselors: while it is easy to point to data like rising math scores to demonstrate a math program’s effects, there are no standardized tests for things like socialization and emotional strength. Some of the most important work a school counselor carries out happens behind the scenes, in unquantifiable ways, often sealed in confidence. Other times, counseling extends beyond the counselor’s office and finds its way into the classroom or the community at large.
Because of that fact, it can be easy to give in to misconceptions and fail to both understand and celebrate the uniquely imperative roles school counselors fill within their greater school communities.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Student Mental Health and Self Care: Free Resources

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Each year our district hosts an annual teen leadership summit for middle and high school leaders.  Until recently, this conference was totally planned by an adult committee; however, the adults realized that it is a student conference and students should actually take part in the planning process!  So, the students were given an opportunity to provide feedback on which topics they felt were important at a student-led conference and one of the topics was, surprisingly, on  balancing life (particularly managing positive mental health and employing self care tactics).  Fortunately, my social worker friend and I were asked if we would present on this topic and we humbly accepted.


Work Life Balance and Self Care

Maintaining a Work Life Balance has become the war cry of the majority modern day workers and should justifiably be taken seriously by employers!!  Although we all strive to maintain that fine balance, how many of us school counselors effectively find that sweet spot? (If you need a reminder about the importance of school counselor self care, read this article from Dr. Rhonda Williams!!) What is this concept anyway?  According to the mental health and well-being page of the government of Queensland, Australia, Work-Life Balance is "adjusting your day-to-day activities to achieve a sense of balance between work life and personal life." If adults have an issue finding this balance, youth are certainly more susceptible to falling into the same trap.  

It's a Balancing Act

My friend and I divided the presentation into two sections.  First, I discussed the concept of mental health, when students should be concerned about their own mental health, and how they can assist others.  Second, my colleague gave tips on self care and she intentionally provided concrete examples that students could use once they walked out the door. 

Attached is the power point presentation that you are more than welcome to borrow or revise for your own use.  



In addition to the presentation, we shared some additional resources with the students.

Student Self Care Kit

My colleague and I created three self care kits to give away to students in the sessions.  They were simple to put together and surprisingly the students loved them...go figure!

Some items we included were:

lotion
bubble wrap
water
dark chocolate
green tea
lolly pops
stress ball
journal
colored pencils
self care cards



Self Care Cards

Here is a sample of the self care cards we gave to students.  


Additional Resources

We also gave out some mental health resources which included the Georgia Crisis text line for students experiencing a crisis. Here is the link to the resources we shared - mental health resources.  Also, my colleague brought her diffuser (she put in peppermint-lemon oil) and Himalayan Salt Lamp for the students to experience.  If you are interested in purchasing these products, check out the links below.





























Also, here are some additional worksheets you may want to include in your self care kit or use with your students experiencing an out-of-balance school-life.





Setting Goals

Now, it is your turn to share your ideas and tools.  What tips/resources/handouts do you use with your students.  Please feel free to share!!!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

College Bound Students & the Digital Footprint: Thoughts from a High School Counselor

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Each year, I am asked to write copious college recommendation letters for students about their character, academic status, and maturity level.  Prior to writing this post, I never really put much thought or energy about how a student's social media account plays a part in their college acceptance process or retention. However, it really matters (even the Pope agrees)!  Case in point, take the latest story that hit the news regarding college student Brianna Brochu's Instagram posts regarding the chronic torment and bullying of her roommate.  Brochu boldly posted on social media that she had masterminded a plan to get rid of her roommate by performing heinous acts to her skincare products, tooth brush, and book bag.  I was shocked she posted her indiscretions so boldly, but yet, was I surprised?  In today's society, students are often rewarded with likes and peer approval for posting crazy stuff.  Therefore, it really did not surprise me that she believed she could safely post these acts without repercussion!  Maybe if the student had been educated about posting such things as an adolescent, she may be still enrolled in her college.

In this post, I wanted to share my thoughts about how school counselors should consider educating students and parents regarding the importance of social media when considering college in their future.  According to Common Sense Media, colleges receive so many qualified applicants that they are now viewing social media accounts as a way of "tipping the scale." Educating students and parents early may prevent many students from college acceptance rejection or dismissal. Because our society is obsessed with "sharing" it is impossible to contain or prevent students from oversharing their information.  In fact, the Pew Institute researched how teens overshare information that may put them at risk for online predators, compromising their personal information, and damaging their digital reputation.

SafeStudents Online found that the online life of the majority teens will not stay online, but often spills into a student's everyday life...including schools.



Each year, our district coordinates parent nights, parent workshops, and classroom presentations regarding college preparation.  These meetings often include information about test preparation, college entrance, and academic rigor; however, seldom do we include a discussion about social media. Recently, I was made aware of a free student tool called The Smart Talk. The purpose of this tool is to assist students in protecting their online identity and personal safety. In addition,  another smart option for parents is to sign for LifeLock Junior identity theft protection to help parents keep a closer eye on their online safety (be aware there is a charge for signing up for this service and it is important that you mention that it is only a suggestion for additional security) . Some possible lessons to incorporate with this tool is about the importance of protecting student privacy online and the importance of a student's digital footprint. Not only is privacy important to protect student accounts, but it can protect students from online predators who may want to steal personal information or trick a student to meet him/her as a part of a sex trafficking plan (once a year, I teach a lesson to my student leaders in sex trafficking awareness and I am shocked at how little they know about this social topic).

I know we are extremely busy with all the things we have to get accomplished each year; however, if this is something that you feel your students and parents need to know here are some lessons you can incorporate along with introducing the Smart Talk tool to parents.

Lessons for Busy Counselors
In this activity, students learn about the impact of their digital footprint and how the information they post online can help or hurt their chances for college admissions and/or employment. Students will also learn how to make a positive impression through their online presence.

Lesson includes:

Video showing a positive digital presence.
Handout "Admissions Packet"

Activities:

Students will review two student candidates and determine which one is most suitable for college admissions.  Following the activity, the students will discuss why they choose the candidate for their institution.

Students will reflect on their own accounts and if their digital footprint is helping or harming their chances for college admission.

Start Early!!

To prove a point about their digital footprint, school counselors can ask their 9th and 10th grade students to "Google" themselves to see what information or photos are visible and suggest how they should clean up their social media accounts.  Also, it a good to encourage students to work with their families to keep them safe online and create a positive digital footprint for their future selves.  Again, one such platform parents and students can use is "Smart Talk".

What is Smart Talk?

Smart Talk is a collaboration between the National Parent Teacher Organization and LifeLock that assists parents and students in talking about online safety, social media and respect, screen time, and texting and calling.  The free application allows families to set up an agreement about computer/phone use that meets the needs of the student and parent. Although it is recommended for students who are just receiving a cellular device or social media account, Smart Talk can be a great tool for parents and students who are rebuilding trust because of social media misuse. I really wished I had know about such a tool when I handed them over a cell phone!!


Smart Talk Covers the Following Topics
Safety & Privacy, Screen Time, Social Media & Respect, Apps & Downloads, & Text & Calling

Here is the online guide for getting started with the Smart Talk tool...


Additional Resources for Parents to Share

Here are some additional free resources that you can share with your parents about safety and digital citizenship.

Free Webinars hosted for parents on social media

Smart Social Podcast

Special note: Again, these are only suggestions and I highly recommend that you never endorse a product or service to families or students.  These are only some of the many services I discovered that may be helpful to parents.

Hope you find this post helpful!  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Guest Post: Helping Teachers with Self-Care: How School Counselors Can Help!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

OnlineCounselingPrograms.com Guest Blog Post for For High School Counselors

By: Sam Frenzel

Biography: Sam Frenzel is a writer for OnlineCounselingPrograms.com where he collaborates with editor Syrenna Kononovitch, editor on creating content that supports future and current counselors in providing services to their clients, seeking education, and pursuing various mental health careers.

Helping Teachers with Self-Care: How School Counselors Can Help


How can you fill someone else’s cup if yours is half empty?

Educators and counselors are in the best position to help their students when they are properly taking care of themselves. Unfortunately; because of stress induced by workloads, meeting state and district standards,and numerous other variables, it is common to feel burned out in these professions. 

Self-care, when proactively and consistently used, can be one of the best defenses against effects of burnout for educators and counselors of all kinds. It is common practice for school counselors to be familiar with various self-care practices and they are absolutely necessary. Teachers, however, are often not as well-versed on self-care techniques. As a consultant and collaborator in the health of students and school, professional school counselors can help teachers identify signs of burnout and encourage engagement in self-care activities.

Specific Signs and Causes of Burnout


Being able to recognize burnout in colleagues is the first step to being an asset in efforts to reduce possible tension and stress in schools.

Career burnout can be seen in a variety of ways including: a decline in work performance and job satisfaction, a change in eating and sleep patterns, impairments in social and other interpersonal relationships, and an overall withdraw from the job, both physically and emotionally. To this end, burnout has the ability to completely alter one’s outlook on their career and, thus, is more important to address than most people realize.

“I see burnout when a colleague calls in sick repeatedly, especially Mondays and Fridays.” Says educator Jen Roberts of LitandTech.com “Other signs include losing patience with students, being unprepared for lessons, negative attitude, exhaustion, feeling behind, complaining about students, parents, or administrators. There are lots of signs of burnout, and all of us have shown some of those symptoms at some point.”

The stressors that lead to burnout in professional school counselors and educators are not all that different. The most commonly cited reasons for burnout in school counselors are increasing job demands, an overwhelming work environment with role confusion, and a lack of time to provide direct services to students. Similarly, educators point to “top contributors” such as intense workload, administrative issues, and student behavior.

This commonality between school counselors and educators is indicative of potential for collaboration in finding ways to relieve the stress.  In many ways, the relationship between school counselor and educator is integral to the holistic success of their students.

How to Help Your Teachers


So how can school counselors help the teachers in their school combat the effects of burnout? The opportunities run the gamut from small, thoughtful gestures to helping address more systemic issues.

Below are eight practices counselors can integrate into their professional lives to be a source of support to teachers in need, from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog - Homeroom:

  1. Help teachers to understand the student as a whole being.
  2. Offer professional advice regarding troublesome students.
  3. Assist with tackling classroom problems, before they get out of hand.
  4. Become an  empathetic listener to both student and teacher concerns.
  5. Work with teachers to implement guidance lessons into academic classes.
  6. Continually develop a collaborative professional relationship.
  7. Offer ways to mediate and resolve conflict between teachers and students..
  8. Provide professional guidance on a student’s mental health concerns.

Each of these practices play a key role in beginning to reduce teacher stress, and will help them develop and find the time for their own self-care techniques.

Using Rational Emotive - Social Behavioral Consultation Theory


Another way school counselors can leverage their expertise to help teachers is by applying theoretical frameworks to teachers who may be experiencing burnout.  School counselors, for instance, can put the rational emotive - social behavioral consultation theory (RE-SBC). School counselors utilize RE-SBC to assess the social-emotional needs of both students and teachers and implement  systemic services such as group consultation. In turn, this will create a multi-level tier of support and responsive services that will promote the overall positive mental health of teachers.

Should You Reach Out to Your Teachers?


Keep in mind that there are going to be times of the year where teachers are at a higher risk of burnout. The first few weeks back in the classroom, busy testing periods, and the end of the school year are a few specific points where it might be beneficial to reach out to staff with a show of support. A few ideas for school counselors to demonstrate solidarity and empathy are to send out a staff memo conveying your willingness to lend an ear and to hold “coffee with the counselor” sessions as an open forum for teachers and counselors to collaborate.

By being a source of support for both teachers and students, school counselors are demonstrating a commitment to their school and the welfare of its student body.





Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Make a Difference Day: Choose a Cause!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017



Recently, Eventbrite informed me of Make a Difference Day which is coming up on October 28th. On this day, individuals can volunteer to serve during "Make A Difference Day", one of the largest days of service nationwide. Since 1992, volunteers have united annually to improve the lives of others in their communities by serving nonprofit causes in the United States. "Make A Difference Day" is made possible by TEGNA with support from Arby’s Foundation and Points of Light. Since I am a huge proponent of peer helping, mental health prevention, conflict resolution, and violence prevention, I was thrilled to share these organizational causes with Eventbrite. They like to encourage their followers to get involved in organizations like these and offer multiple tools to make the fundraising process a little simpler!





My Favorite Causes 


Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation


For the last five years, I have made the six hour drive to the Gulf of Mexico to attend a wonderful conference about the benefits of peer helping sponsored by the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation.  I truly believe in the power of  peer helping and so does the founder of the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation, Frances Holk-Jones.  You see, Frances knows the potential of power of peers personally. After the suicide of her daughter, Jennifer, many of her daughter's friends informed her they were aware of Jennifer's state of mind, but were unsure of what to do with that information.  In the hopes of preventing other suicides in the community, Jennifer's family started a foundation to incorporate peer programs throughout all Baldwin County Schools in Southern Alabama.  I must say that I am amazed by the foundation's commitment, not only to their community, but to educate other professionals each year in their national conference. I truly support this organization and their work to spread the power of peer helping!!

Want to know about the National Peer Helping Conference?  Check out the link below to find out more!



National Council of Behavior Health and Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA)


Five years ago, my school district was awarded a grant called Project Aware . Part of the grant included selecting a handful of psychologists, social workers, and school counselors to become certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).  Fortunately, I was one of the staff members selected to take the certification course. Each year, I have had the privilege to teach up to four or five YMHFA courses per year to school, court, medical, religious, and corporate employees in the Metro Atlanta area.  The ability to train youth workers in Georgia has been very fulfilling and rewarding.  Our goal is to educate and train as many youth workers in Georgia as possible about youth mental illness. 
Georgia has still a way to go...sigh.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is "designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis" (Youth Mental Health First Aid).  Like CPR helps a person in a medical crisis, YMHFA training helps youth workers take action to get a youth in a mental crisis the help they need before the youth harms him/herself or others.



YMHFA is sponsored by the National Council for Behavioral Health which is the unifying voice of US health care organizations that deliver mental health services to over 10 million adults and children.  The National Council is a 501(c)(3) association that advocates for to comprehensive health care services for people who have mental health and substance use disorders. 

This caption sums the importance of YMHFA in the US!

National Association of Peer Program Professionals (NAPPP)


It was at the National Peer Helping Conference that I became aware of this organization.  The role of NAPPP is to help adults establish, train, supervise, maintain, and evaluate peer programs. Each year NAPPP coordinates peer helping training institutes across the world that teach adults to create, maintain, and evaluate a standard's based peer program in their organization.  In 2011, I became a certified peer educator with NAPPP and had the awesome opportunity to present at the 2014 ASCA
Conference on how to establish a standards based peer program.  Besides the opportunities for training and certification, the organization coordinates monthly webinars on important topics (bullying, suicide, and mental health to name a few), sends out a monthly newsletter that includes such goodies as student lessons, and provides consultation to those hoping to begin a program. Each year, NAPPP sponsors a National Peer Helping Week to promote and celebrate peer helping in schools.  A kit can be downloaded from the NAPPP site.

See this post regarding National Peer Helping Week.






Online Peer Mediation Platform (OPMP)


In 2014, I was asked by one of my mentors if I wanted to be a part of creating an online forum in the field of peer mediation. The project was part of a generous two year grant provided by the JAMS Foundation and was managed by the Association for Conflict Resolution.   This online platform would serve four purposes:

1.  Provide free resources for conflict resolution practitioners.
2.  Deliver basic conflict module training for students.
3.  Afford the opportunity for online peer mediation practice for students from existing peer mediation programs.
4.  Provide online peer mediation services for schools that lack a peer mediation program.


In 2016, the National Association for Peer Program Professionals was given the opportunity to manage the platform and extended available services. These additional services include: providing conflict resolution curricula, peer mediation training for schools, free monthly webinars, and free lessons in conflict resolution for students.

Check out the most recent free webinar from the Online Peer Mediation Platform called the State of Peer Mediation.  Also, register to participate in the October webinar hosted by Christa Tinari on "Bullying and Conflict: What is the Difference"? 




October 25th Free Webinar Registration


Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE)


In 2014, I discovered SAVE and their mission to prevent violence in schools.  Because I am a BIG proponent of prevention, I decided to start a chapter in my school.  What I appreciate most about SAVE is that they sponsor many youth violence prevention activities during the year, provide many free resources and share lots of great ideas to incorporate in your school.

SAVE EVENTS

October 16-24, 2017

"Say Something" teaches middle and high school students how to look for warning signs, signals and threats from a peer who might be planning to hurt themselves or someone else and to say something to a trusted adult to get help and possibly save a life.



March 19-23, 2018

National Youth Violence Awareness Week seeks to educate students, teachers, school administrators, counselors, school resource officers, school staff,  parents, and the public on effective ways to prevent or reduce violence among youth. The activities demonstrate the positive role peers can have in making their school a safer place.


NYVAW Events

Monday-Promoting Respect and Tolerance          
Tuesday-Manage Your Anger, Don’t Let it Manage You                  
Wednesday-Resolve Conflicts Peacefully                                          
Thursday-Support Safety
Friday-Unite in Action




Again, I am honored to have the opportunity to share the causes that I truly support in my profession! I hope you find this information useful and find these organizations of interest to you!