Keystone Oaks Welcomes Two New Mental Health Therapists to Student Services Department
This year, Keystone Oaks welcomes two full-time mental health therapists to its staff of support professionals who work together to help students overcome obstacles that serve as barriers to learning so that they can succeed in the classroom, in the community and in personal relationships. Ms. Danielle King will work with students at all three elementary schools and Ms. Sarah Hazlett will work with middle and high school students.
The District has worked with an outside agency to provide mental health services for 15 years, but made the decision to hire two full-time staff members to allow for greater collaboration and to better control costs.
“Both Danielle and Sarah are professionals with vast experience in providing mental health services to school-aged children,” said Mrs. Suzanne Lochie, Supervisor of Pupil Services. “We are excited to have them on board and are looking forward to building relationships across multiple systems to provide the best possible services for Keystone Oaks students.”
Mental health therapy is one of the supports available to students through the Student Assistance Program and the Elementary Student Assistance Program. Factors such as finances, transportation and time can all serve as barriers to students receiving mental health services outside of school; having mental health therapists with offices in the schools helps reduce those barriers and ensure that students are indeed succeeding in the school environment.
“Children spend at least six hours per day, 184 days per year and 13 years of their life in school,” Ms. King said. “For students that need mental health therapy, having someone available in their school to provide prevention efforts, intervention strategies and to coordinate with outside services can go a long way in ensuring their long-term success.”
Mental health therapy can be used to help students cope with any number of situations, including issues with stress management, healthy relationships, problem solving, organization skills, self-esteem, depression, anxiety and ADHD symptom management.
One of the goals of the mental health therapists is to help students, District staff, parents/guardians and the community better understand these issues and the stigma around seeking help to better manage these types of problems.
“School can be a stressful, overwhelming and confusing time for students and their parents. I want to create a safe environment where students can feel supported, listened to and cared about,” Ms. Hazlett said. “I think it is important for students, parents and staff to learn about and discuss different issues that are affecting our students’ mental health. I am really looking forward to leading conversations that help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.”
Those conversations will start during this week’s Suicide Prevention Week, a national event designed to raise awareness that suicide is a preventable cause of premature death. Ms. Hazlett will be focusing mainly on educating high school students on how to identify signs of depression, mental illness, substance abuse and other risk factors associated with suicide.
Pennsylvania State Representative Dan Miller, whose Brain Health Bill is currently before the General Assembly, and Keystone Oaks Alumni Achievement Award recipient Ian Cummins, who has dedicated his life to eradicating the stigma of mental illness after losing his brother to suicide, will be joining Ms. Hazlett next week in distributing suicide prevention ribbon pins, wallet cards and magnets to increase awareness of mental health issues and to highlight resources that are available to students and families.
“We are fortunate to have these two individuals assist with our efforts this week,” Mrs. Lochie said. “Their support of the District’s programs and their connections with community resources have been invaluable for Keystone Oaks students, staff and families.”