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Wellness Presentation to Board of Education

Board of Education Presentation - Wellness

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New Approaches to Wellness at Ramsey High School

We are incredibly proud of the strides we have made at the high school in supporting the District’s goal of enhancing the student experience.  Specifically, Mr. Wynne and Ms. Waldeck have partnered to form a 9th Grade Cohort that we have called Freshman Seminar.  The primary function of Freshman Seminar is to shepherd and welcome students from 8th grade to the High School.  Essentially, Ms. Waldeck and Mr. Wynne have become ambassadors for the High School in which they share tips, strategies, sage advice, and advocate for the students for the entire year.  This new model helps 9th graders understand adaptability, responsibility, self-direction, communication, and empathy.  Moreover, students are given opportunities throughout the year to reflect upon their growth mindset (as supported by the in-class text Mindset by Carol Dweck), their executive functioning skills, their decision making (substance abuse, healthy relationships, etc.), and their ability to relate to one another through team building activities.  

Additionally, our current Sophomores have invested 15 lessons into the Prepare U modules that helps students discuss, grapple with, and familiarize themselves with all aspects of mental health.  The Prepare U program is an evidenced-supported curriculum meant to increase student meaning and purpose while reducing the negative effects of trauma and anxiety.  In essence, the program frames interventions, remediations, and healthy conversations around difficult topics from addiction to substances and abuse on social media.  The lessons are constructed in a way that allows the learner to drill down into the operationalization and relevance of psychological terms and common mental health ailments aimed at demystifying the stigma around mental health. 

Universal Depression Screening 

This year, the Smith School and Ramsey High School school counselors and child study team members are collaborating on a Mental Health Awareness and Depression Screening Intervention for students in Grades 7, 8, and 10. To design and implement a safe and meaningful protocol to screen for depression, we consulted with West Bergen Mental Healthcare who provided exceptional advice and support. We chose to adapt the Columbia DISC Depression screening tool to identify students who may be at risk for depression. The school counselors then developed a Mental Health Awareness presentation to further our Stigma Free Initiative, which intends to eliminate barriers to students and families in need of mental health services.  

At the beginning of the school year, parents and guardians were asked via a survey question in the Parent Portal to give consent to have their children screened for depression using the DISC Depression tool.  If a parent did not give consent, their child was not screened. In addition, we limited our screenings to students who were in school to ensure that identified students could be immediately seen by a counselor, social worker, or psychologist for a suicide risk assessment. Through this protocol, we were able to link students in need of mental health support with appropriate counseling services. Between October and December, the counselors visited PE/Wellness classes to deliver the Mental Health Awareness presentation.  At the start of each lesson, all eligible 7th and 10th graders were screened using the DISC Depression screening, and our CST carefully reviewed responses to identity students for immediate follow up. In the coming weeks we will be screening our eligible 8th graders. 

We are grateful to our PE/Wellness teachers for their willingness to partner with us to deliver this important presentation and depression screening. At this time when so many of us are feeling the strain of the ongoing pandemic, it was an excellent opportunity for our School Counseling and CST departments to communicate to students that they are not alone, that our school system is staffed with supports to assist them during this difficult time and link them to outside resources, and that we must continue to encourage our friends and loved ones to get the help they need when they are not at our best.