WEYBURN - The importance of mental health and making connections with students in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division was presented by staff during a monthly board meeting, held May 23.
Three school counsellors and the behavioral consultant shared information on programs offered and the services that they are providing in Holy Family schools.
School Counsellors Becky Tuchscherer, Brooklyn Lund and Jasmine Lund spoke about the different tier supports offered throughout the school division.
“This year, with our counselling team, we tried a different approach with counselling supports in the school. We split up our Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports,” explained Tuchscherer.
Tier 1 is classroom supports, where counsellors work with teachers to address students in the full classroom setting. Tier 2 is a small group of students working together with the school counsellor to build skills in a specific area. Tier 3 is individual one-on-one therapy. In Tier 3 support, Counsellors work with teachers and parents to develop a case plan to focus on a student’s individual need. Parent consent is required before a student enters Tier 3.
“By doing the preventative work in the classrooms and small groups, we can get the skills to the students without having them come onto our Tier 3 caseload,” added Tuchscherer. The three Holy Family Counsellors have the skills and training to work in all three tiers, and have a connection with each of the five schools in the division, so they are all familiar with all the students.
There are a number of programs that are offered in the school division to help address mental health with the students. The Signs of Suicide (SOS) program is offered to Grade 8 and 9 students to address signs of depression and suicide in a meaningful way.
“This was the second year for our SOS program. The first year we offered the program in the spring, and feedback from teachers indicated that they wanted it offered early in the fall, so we held the program in November this year and it worked very well,” said Tuchscherer.
“SOS is an evidence-based suicide prevention program that has demonstrated a 64 per cent reduction in self-reported suicide attempts. SOS teaches students about risks and how to identify signs of depression and suicide in themselves and others, so they can ACT (acknowledge, care and tell).”
“We always present this program with at least three adults in the classroom, since it is a sensitive topic,” added Tuchscherer. “We use videos and discussion to go through the materials, and at the end of our presentation all of the Grade 8 and 9 students complete a BSAD (brief screen for adolescent depression).”
The results of the BSAD are sent back to the counsellors, in order to continue the support with a one-to-one consultation with the students. “It is so valuable to complete this progress with the students,” said Tuchscherer.
Guidelines and questions are then provided to the teachers, so they can follow up with the students, and have conversations that make connections and assist in communication. From the SOS data, conversations were also completed with the school Response to Intervention team, to see if any other interventions were needed. The important thing is to identify students who are at risk, and notify the parent so that continued conversations, support and connections can be offered if they were needed.
Other programs offered at Holy Family include a Bullying Awareness week, and a Mental Health Awareness Week. This year, a special presentation by a motivational speaker, Sam Demma, who urged students to “empty your backpack”, was the key focus during the week.
Behaviour Consultant Claire Fingler spoke on the training necessary for her role in the school division, and the importance of staying in touch with EAs and teachers.
This is Fingler’s third year in the role of Behaviour Consultant for Holy Family. “What drew me to this position is that I have a love for working with children who have diverse needs and try to help them and their teachers,” said Fingler.
“This job was created in 2020, and it is a position that is similar to a counsellor, as it is referral basis. I am a member of the Response to Intervention team at the schools, so I attend meetings with the principals and Learning Facilitators. I also conduct assessments for the school division, and conduct formal and informal classroom observations so that I can work with the teachers and EAs to support classroom management.”
She said that her work is “slow and steady, and takes time”, but that is very important while working with students who have diverse needs. “Often time with our most challenging students, we have to take time to get to know them and build a relationship with them.”
Fingler has a close connection with the teachers, EAs and Learning Facilitators at the school division. She also works directly with the parents and outside agencies to support families and their children in the best way. She has advanced specialized trained in a number of intervention programs, behaviour assessments and screening programs, to help to provide resources and the best support to Holy Family students.