The first step was to administer a survey to the entire student body to gather information about their experiences. The survey covered four main topics: adverse experiences, risk behavior, social emotional impact, and school experiences. The questions on the survey pulled largely from existing, well-established tools including:
After the surveys were complete, Summit Shasta leaders identified a diverse group of students to participate in focus groups to discuss the findings. The survey results included the percentage of students at the school who reported physical or emotional abuse, self-harming behaviors, suicidal ideation and attempts, sexual harassment, being bullied for their race, ethnicity, or national origin, and witnessing violence in their communities. Laura and I met with two separate groups, gave them time to review the percentages and encouraged the students to reflect on whether the results rang true to them, what is already in place to address these issues, and what else could be done to support students. We were impressed by the student’s resilience, sense of community, and willingness to share vulnerable feelings with us. They advocated for their needs in creative ways, supported one another in the room when discussing difficult topics, and openly discussed diversity issues effecting their community.
Based on the information gathered from all the meetings and discussions, Laura Lin and Jenny Ventura wrote up a detailed report summarizing the findings and proposing a variety of ways to address the identified needs including professional development for teachers, drop-in services for students, parent outreach and psycho education, enhancing existing systems, and empowering students. Robin Detterman and I presented these recommendations to a couple of the school leaders, who will later determine which supports or interventions they would like to pursue.
This was an informative experience for me, and an interesting way to learn about other ways we support schools implementing Tier 1 and 2 services. It was inspiring to meet and spend time with the wonderful staff at Summit Shasta who are committed to improving the lives of their students. And it was also a great reminder of how important it is to raise awareness of mental health issues and find ways to address them that are not stigmatizing.
Thanks for reading!
Rachel Murray, Clinical Supervisor