By Josh Ramirez, LPC
School Based Therapist/Team Leader and Outpatient Therapist
In recent years, mental health wellness has gained much more exposure in our popular culture than ever before. Celebrities, athletes, and other public figures have been more vocal about their own mental health journeys and self-care routines. This increased attention comes at a crucial time, as the compounding stress from the pandemic, economic recession, opioid crisis, social unrest, and global conflicts have all contributed to a substantial jump in mental illness.
Unfortunately, children and teenagers are some of the most at-risk for detrimental effects on their mental health. For instance, recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that over a third of teenagers have reported experiencing worsened mental health since the pandemic (Jones et al., 2022). While specific causes and contributing factors are still being explored, these numbers are striking. Thus, facing this concerning rise, those of us who work with children and adolescents may be asking ourselves, where do we go from here?
Laurel Life’s professional development opportunities on mental health seek to aid in answering this question. Our hands-on workshops have been provided to multiple school districts, delivering intensive and informative training that serves to educate and prepare staff for the challenges they may encounter working with students who present with mental health concerns. Below is an overview of the topics addressed in our professional development sessions.
Mental Disorders and Symptoms
While there are affective and behavioral symptoms of various mental disorders that are reasonably easy to identify, there are many others that are much subtler and elusive to the untrained eye. Also, many disorders may have symptoms that appear quite similar to one another, making them difficult to distinguish. Further, there are many disorders that tend to be comorbid, meaning they occur simultaneously. Thus, to combat the difficulty these nuances may create, Laurel Life’s mental health development first seeks to provide an extensive overview on the disorders that are most commonly encountered in the classroom. This includes information on specific symptoms, age- or gender-based differences in presentation, evidence-based treatments, and cultural considerations related to the disorders.
The Impact of Trauma
As an agency, we at Laurel Life understand the unique and profound influence that trauma has on our mental health throughout the lifespan. Therefore, after introducing mental health symptoms in general, we then give significant attention to how traumatic experiences may affect an individual’s emotional, behavioral, social, and cognitive wellbeing. Further, by examining the specific neurological changes that can occur as a result of trauma, we are able to train staff in being able to identify and address the warning signs of trauma-exposure in their students’ behavioral presentation.
Self-Care and Compassion Fatigue
It may seem cliché but, to effectively take care of others, first we have to take care of ourselves. Accordingly, the last component that we emphasize at our mental health professional development is self-care. Staff are encouraged to tune into themselves and their unique needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and emotionally triggers. In this way, staff are able to work on developing specific routines for taking care of themselves. Additionally, staff are educated on compassion fatigue¸ or the increased stress that can result from working with others experiencing difficult circumstances or trauma. Ultimately, the goal is for staff to gain self-awareness, promote their own wellbeing, and avoid potential burnout.
By providing extensive information and exposure in these areas, Laurel Life seeks to promote mental health wellness, educate on mental disorder, and destigmatize treatment. Through professional development sessions, we are able to enhance staff’s awareness of how mental health may play a role in their offices, classrooms, and personal lives. In this manner, we strive to prepare staff to step up to the challenges they face as they continue to help and serve others.
If you are interested or would like more information on Laurel Life Professional Development for your school district or organization, go to our professional development page or contact us at (717) 375-4834.