In the episode, Sage Oak school counselor, Allie Whalen, is bringing awareness to Mental Health.
Allie walks us through the Mental Health Awareness parent training and highlights the resources available to families. She provides strategies to promote healthy emotional well-being, reviews the signs and triggers parents should be aware of, and explains the importance of being proactive.
For more information and resources on mental health, visit sageoak.education.
Thank you for listening to the Sage Studio podcast presented by Sage Oak Charter Schools and hosted by Tiffiny Webster, M.A.Ed. We invite you to follow the show and leave your review below. Sage Oak Charter Schools is an independent study nonclassroom based TK-12 personalized learning public charter school serving students in Southern California. Visit sageoak.education for more information.
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Welcome to another episode of Sage Studio. I'm Tiffiny Webster, and I am joined today with our school counselor, Allie Whalen. Welcome, Allie. Hi! I'm so glad to be here. Thanks for having me, Tiffiny. We are so excited about this because we are going to be talking all about mental health and how May is Mental Health Month. And I know that you and our other school counselor, Carl Prendergast, have been putting together a lot of great resources for our parents. for our families. And so we really just wanted to highlight those today on the podcast. But before we dive into all the good things that you guys have been putting in your newsletter remind us a little bit about your role at Sage Oak and just about the role of a school counselor in general. So school counselors work to support the success of all students. We have three domains that we work under. So the first being academic, we're trying to help them implement strategies to help students maximize their ability to learn. We're trying to work on their career development, make sure they have the foundation of those acquisition of skills, attitude, knowledge to be successful in their transition from high school to the world of work. And then that personal social piece to that personal and social growth, which is where that idea of mental health falls into. So we have some planning services, we have responsive services, which is individual counseling, group counseling, crisis intervention And then indirect services such as referrals or collaboration with parents and staff. And school counseling services are for all Sage Oak students. So it's not something that you need to have an IEP for, a 504. School counseling is a general education service. So we're here to support all our Sage Oak students and we'd love to do that. I'm so glad you reminded me of that because I think that question comes up a lot and parents want to know, like, is this a resource that's available to me? And we want to definitely say yes, it is. Absolutely. And Here's where you can go to find all the different resources that we have available to you. So great. Dive into the newsletter. I'll even show you where on the newsletter. There's a link that says like, you know, make an appointment or, you know, I want to talk to a counselor. So we put that out on all our newsletters. So parents, teachers, students students can reach out directly themselves. They don't have to reach out through a teacher or, their parent and some of our high school students want to reach out directly, which is fantastic. So yes, we absolutely want to speak to anyone and everyone in support students in those three domains. That's great. Okay. Yes. We definitely want to know more about that. Take us to the newsletter and show us what you guys have going on this month of May and all the good resources that are linked there. Awesome. So here is our school counseling newsletter our teachers receive a copy and oftentimes they're going to share it with you at your learning period meetings we also send it out at the beginning of each month. As Tiffiny, you shared this is Mental Health Awareness Month, so our newsletter is focused on that. And mental health is like the state of your child's emotional well being. It's your ability to handle stress and to relate to other people, do hard things, make choices and we really want to raise the awareness about mental illness and mental health, and so we can take the stigma out of perhaps seeking treatment. And without treatment, mental health disorders can become, difficult, they can reach a crisis point and we want to avoid that. So, we want to make sure we share this information with families and give them the resources so they can support their students mental health now so we can negate any future issues in those crisis situations. I love that. And I think that it's so important for parents and students to hear getting help now can really prevent the problem from escalating and growing and becoming really overwhelming. So even if we're just starting to have those like little inklings or little thoughts of self doubt, like sharing that with somebody now can really be a very proactive move. It sounds like exactly. And I feel like the big point we want to Share it is there's difference between mental health and mental illness, right? You know, just like physical health and physical illness. Physical health is just taking care of ourselves, right? Eating well, getting enough sleep, you know, and doing things to take care of our body. Well, mental health is the same way. Taking care of our mind, our thoughts. And there should not be a stigma associated with mental health. We want to make sure we are taking care of our mental health just the same way we would take care of our physical health. Great point. All right. Talk to us about some of the resources that you have for our parents. So we are going to do this parent workshop and that parent workshop is in the May 18th. It's a Thursday at four o'clock. So we're going to jump into, what is mental health as I kind of shared making sure that. parents understand what it means to be mentally healthy ensure that they understand that their mental health, their child's mental health is just as important as their physical health. As I kind of mentioned to find the difference between mental health and mental illness talking about mental health does not mean that you have a mental illness, ensure that they understand the distinction. Again, share the statistics. Make sure they know that this is a something that we need to be concerned about. It's not something that we need to put up and that we should be putting on the back burner. We should be giving this just as much attention as a child's physical health. Kind of talk about the warning signs that if you notice something happening with your child Something that's, you know, a change in behavior. I noticed this one a lot when I talk to parents like intense worries or Fears that get in the way of daily activities number 10 here you know, that's something that we need to be aware of we need to address. Again you know, if you have a physical pain, it's Often not going to go away just on its own, right? You need that intervention and you need support. And so if we have some mental illness symptoms, we need to make sure we're addressing those too. Can you give an example, Allie, of what would be considered like an intense worry or fear? Like what would that look like for a parent? Well, usually it'd be like something that's persistent. So if it's something that, you know, you've said this is something my students worried about, or have been upset about from second grade to fourth grade, we're still having the same fear. Or if it's persistent, it's prevalent. It's it is something that is interfering with their daily activities across multiple levels. So it's not something just happening at school. It might be happening in a community provider class. It might be something when they go to a friend's house, they maybe even go to a family's house. So if it's interfering with multiple parts of their life I would absolutely think that's something that's intense or like I said, persistent, something that's hap you know, that's continuing and it's something that you are trying to address with some of these strategies that we are sharing. And even with those , coping skills and strategies, interventions, it's not getting any better. So at that point I would not wait those two years. If you find that it's not getting any better, then I would say that's something that you could take to your pediatrician and ask for their advice and input, and go from there. I like how On this list, you are giving a little bit of specifics, because I think as a parent, that's sometimes where we're not really sure. Like, is this a sign that we need to be paying attention to? Is this not really a sign and something it'll pass? And so being able to give a little bit of definition to what intense looks like, or you said persistent, I think that really helps with parents discernment, right? Or even I'm looking up here at number one, and it's talking about being sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks. It helps us to give a little bit of context. So when does something go from you know, you're just not feeling in the mood to wow, this could really be a sign of something bigger. So I really like this list. I think it's going to help parents. And obviously I think it's also developmental too, right? If you have a kid that has separation anxiety when they're three, four years old, that's completely normal. But if you have a kid that has separation anxiety, that's 10, 11, 12 years old, you know, that's not really a developmental milestone anymore, right? You should have been able to move through that. You know, but again, when kids are five or six, there are a lot of kids have a fear of sleeping through the night and have a, are afraid of the dark. So that is kind of a normal fear for that age. So keeping in mind what that fear is, and where it falls under those developmental milestones. Another example would be, like, middle school kiddos, and friendships, and whatnot, right? We all have those kind of fear of, like, not being good enough and whatnot. But, again, if that becomes something that interferes In the way of their daily activities if it's something that, causes them to have the prolonged sadness and withdraws from their friend group, then it's something that we need to address. Again, those would be something that we would try to use some of those strategies to support our mental health. It wouldn't be a mental illness. Got it. Okay, great. One thing I really feel strongly about is this cognitive triangle. Knowing that your thoughts dictate your feelings, which then dictate your behaviors. So, we are going to be spending a lot of time talking about what that means, how to challenge your negative thoughts. So. It is important to challenge our thoughts asking is it true? Is it helpful? What's the opposite of that? How can I move forward? But when we have feelings it does affect our physical sensations too oftentimes, you know, so. We we get caught up in the thoughts, the feelings, and our heart starts to race, our palms start to sweat, and it kind of spirals real quickly. So being able to kind of, pause that cognitive triangle, right? Change those thoughts and make them more positive is such an important skill to have for all students. And we can start that young, we can start that with the littles, and it's something even as adults we can benefit from hearing because our thoughts are so important to our feelings or behaviors. And again, our mood, just the way our daily life is going to proceed. I totally agree. And if you're watching this on our YouTube channel, and you're able to take a screenshot of this part, I would do that. Or when you show up live to the training with Allie, take a screenshot of this because what is so great about this diagram is its simplicity and then it works just as well for positive thoughts as it does for negative thoughts. So you can really kind of run the contrast through this exercise. So if you plug in a negative thought with the negative feelings, you're going to see how that creates negative behaviors. But if you then replace that with something positive, how that will lead to more positive feelings and positive behavior. So I think it's going to be a really helpful tool for all of our students and maybe parents too. Yeah, and I love how you switched it around to that positive thing, because it is true when you have those negative thoughts, our body releases those chemicals, those negative chemicals that encourages our body to react negatively, but when we have positive thoughts, our body releases those positive chemicals that make us excited, make us, , feel, happier to be, more optimistic about situations. So our thoughts have a huge impact on our feelings and our behaviors. So, we'll get into this a lot more during our training and ensure that you have the information here on how to help you manage your thoughts and how that does impact your mental health. So, we're going to jump into a little bit more about what you can do as far as your daily routine and how parents can support their students again, proactively, preventively. And that positive communication, teaching social emotional skills. And some of these things are straightforward and just good reminders. You know, positive communication, just letting your kiddos know that they can speak about feelings. And when we speak about feelings, it builds more awareness that they can name their feeling. It helps them be able to regulate their feeling when they know what it is they're feeling and ultimately reduce problem behaviors.. Well, these days, A lot of online or virtually, right? So it's like, well, you know what, I'm just not gonna talk to that person anymore. I'm gonna move on. So we're not having the same experiences or opportunities to be able to learn social emotional learning skills. So we need to make sure we are just proactively teaching them and intentionally teaching them the same way we're teaching other skills. And having parents model for them is important. So, we'll get into that a bit more too. Perfect. I love that. I think you're right. Like helping students to understand how to communicate and work through something versus just to remove themselves from the situation and lose that opportunity to work through something. So, okay, that's going to be really helpful to parents. Tell us more about some of the positive communication aspects that you'll be focusing on. All kids are trying to figure out who they are, their identity, how they fit in, how they wanna dress, act, their values, their morals. Plus they wanna make sure that they're like, what's their worth? Right? Are they valuable? Are they loved?, Are they kind? So we wanna make sure that parents have the tools to fill up their kids' love tank and make sure that they are receiving that positive feedback. A few months ago we did a presentation on the five Love Languages. So we're gonna revisit that, just kind of throw that in as some Additional resources so that parents know again how they can ensure that they are helping their kid see their value and make sure they feel good about themselves. And again, have that self awareness for them to be their best. So we have a bunch of resources we're linking positive coping skills positive self care sense of belonging connection problem solving conflict resolution trying to Give you all those ideas and tools that you might need to kind of help your kid. And we'll, you know, dive into those a bit more and explain those more thoroughly within. I think this chart is super helpful in organizing that information because parents can really just look at, okay, what is the main topic that they're interested in? You provided a link for them. It's really easy for them to find those resources. So this looks great. Yeah, absolutely. So just wrapping up again, how to support your kiddo. I said at the very beginning Miss Coral and I are here to help all Sage Oak students. So if you have any questions, or as you said to me, like, what is that symptom, like something that you'd be concerned about or worried about, or is that normal? You don't have to answer that question alone. It's something we are happy to talk with you about and be able to process together and figure out what the right path would be moving forward. So, don't hesitate to reach out to Ms. Coral and myself. You know, talk to their teacher, ask them what they think, what they observe. Our Sage Oak teachers are fantastic and have so much information as well. And again, don't hesitate to make an appointment with your pediatrician. Just the same way you would make an appointment to talk about your child's physical health. It's absolutely fantastic to make that same appointment to talk about their mental health as well. I think that's going to put so many of our parents and families at ease just again, reviewing the difference between mental health awareness and mental illness, and really knowing about who they can reach out to. I love that you reminded them that they are not alone, that they have someone that they can talk to about this, whether it's you or a pediatrician. I think that's really helpful. This month's newsletter does include, Tiffiny, our quick tips. Okay. So we want to give families just like a little five minute type of like just mini lesson that they could do with their kiddos. So because this month's topic is mental health awareness, our quick tips are about mental health awareness. So we have a TK through five. Quick tip and it is recorded so you just can play and go or of course, we do have the slides for you here So if you wanted to go through it with your child instead of listening to us, that's fantastic, too So feel free to do whatever works best for you and for our 6 through 12th grade students. We have another presentation, but just of course, I'm looking a little bit more mature, having a little bit diving a little bit deeper, giving a little bit more information and being a little bit again, more developmentally appropriate. So, again, the recorded or feel free to you know, scroll through and utilize the links. We included these crisis hotline information. So if their student does have some questions about themselves or a loved one. It could be a family member, it could be a friend, anyone, right? We're all in this together. We want to support each other. So if anything comes up and they you know, don't feel comfortable reaching out to their teacher or perhaps even a school counselor, there are anonymous hotlines they can reach out to. But the big idea there guys is reach out to someone, right? Talk to someone and get that help for yourself or a loved one. So that is in the Counseling Connection newsletter as well. The information, the Zoom link for the Parent Workshop. We also put like a little sign up form there too. So if you need to get reminders like I do so that we'll email you, you know, the week of, the weekday of, so, you remember about it. And also just highlighting we have some SEL or Social Emotional Learning Curriculum there. So each month we put out a little lesson and this is a little bit longer, right? Our quick tips, like, you know, little five minute lesson our Choose Love SEL lesson is going to be a little bit longer. We do offer live classes too on Mondays, so you could come meet with me or Miss Coral But if you don't have that opportunity and you want to do it independently at home, we want to make sure you have the curriculum do it. So there's some high school and PLA information and some VLA information too. So that's fantastic. And as I said Tiffiny, on the bottom here is the Counselor request form. So clicking on that it takes you right to our request form and you can let us know who you are and what you need and we would love to be able to get in touch with you. So, that is a little bit about our newsletter and what we have in there each month. I love it. Okay. Come back to me full screen for a minute. Because I just want to, you know, you guys do such an incredible job. I mean, every single month, I'm just so impressed with the abundance of resources that you offer, but how succinctly you present it and how easy you make it for parents to find what they need, find hot tips that they can practice at home with their kids by appropriate grade level. You're linking them right to slideshows, you're providing them recording. I mean, you guys are just doing an excellent job of making sure that everyone has everything that they need. So thanks again for doing another great job this month. It's I'm going to piggyback on that for just a second we are going to just kind of put out at the end of your survey So and if parents do have feedbacks, staff family, community about what they need or want. We would love, love, love to hear from you. So we're going to put that out in the Sage News in the coming weeks and ask for your feedback and information about what you want to see next year. And please let us know because we want to make sure again, we are serving all Sage Oak students and families. So good. All right. Thank you so much, Allie, for coming on the podcast today, sharing those great resources with us. Parents, make sure that you click on the link to sign up. We'll add it in our show notes as well. You can sign up for the training. If not, we'll be sure to get those resources and materials to you for some reason you can't attend live. But again, it's definitely something you want to continue to look out for. If you haven't been following and looking for the counseling newsletter, make sure that you are looking for that in your email inbox. Lots of goodies in there. All right. As always, thank you, Allie. So good to talk to you. Have a great day. Thanks, Tiffiny.