Mental Health Awareness: Educators as First Responders

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As part of our ongoing efforts to support the entire New Hampton School community–not only academically but physically and emotionally—we invited Dr. Deborah Offner, a clinical psychologist out of Massachusetts, to join us and share her Educators as First Responders program.

Educators as first responders is a program that helps educators identify the needs in supporting the mental health of their students.

Identifying the need for support

Recognizing adolescents may already experience stress and anxiety, this year adds additional factors of COVID-19 and political and social unrest. Teachers tend to be the first to learn of a student’s struggle, and so Dr. Offner shared some advice to build confidence, and strategies were discussed to hold important conversations with our students.

When supporting a student who experiences anxiety, Dr. Offner said teachers must listen to the student, have them reflect, and validate their feelings. Some of the discussion went into difficult topics like student depression and suicide—how to intervene and get support from the administration and the health office were shared with teachers. It is important to form a bond and execute clear open communication with parents/guardians so teachers and advisors can work with families in order to support a student who is struggling.

Lastly, teachers must take care of their own mental and physical needs in order to care for their students. Dr. Offner shared many resources with teachers to build on their knowledge of social and emotional learning. Dr. Offner also shared a page of resources for parents and school counselors. View the resources >

Ongoing professional development

This type of professional development falls under an important pillar in our strategic plan—strength. The purpose of our strength pillar is to support the people that bring our community to life. Without the knowledge and resources available to support the social-emotional needs of students, our teachers would fall short of providing an all-inclusive and well-rounded education for New Hampton School students. Being a New Hampton School student means much more than just academics. It means finding success and support in athletics, co-curriculars, and house life. It means not being afraid to ask for help and to leave here knowing who you are and what your interests are. Our goal is to create a space where students feel comfortable seeking help for themselves or others and a space where students know they will find support.

The next faculty meeting will continue on the theme of social-emotional support with a presentation from Stacey Redman of Growing Roots LLC. Growing Roots is a mental health service program that has been visiting campus periodically to meet with students and teachers to provide additional support this year. Scott will be sharing themes and trends he has seen at New Hampton School as well as other peer schools so teachers may better support their students.

About Deborah Offner

Dr. Deborah Offner is a clinical psychologist and school consultant in Newton, Massachusetts. Her areas of expertise include adolescent development and mental health, school and college counseling supervision, and professional development for K-12 educators. Read more about Dr. Offner >

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