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Elementary Age Wellness Screening is Critical to Children’s Mental Health

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Elementary Age Wellness Screening is Critical to Children’s Mental Health

Blog

Elementary Age Wellness Screening is Critical to Children’s Mental Health

Posted on by Jill Harp

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual mental health screening for all school-age children. In the same way we monitor a child’s physical wellness, it is important to monitor mental wellness. Mental wellness allows children to think clearly, develop socially and learn new skills. It is essential!

Parents are critical to a child’s mental wellness. They are excellent observers (and reporters) of children’s feelings and behaviors. Parents are often the first people to recognize a concern. For elementary-age children, parents are asked questions in order to monitor children’s mental wellness.

MOST mental wellness screening is preventative.  Regularly considering a child’s mental wellness builds awareness. This allows parents to talk with their children about mental health. Also, it helps parents identify concerns even earlier. Often, it is difficult to see the value in wellness screening because it will prevent mental health concerns from ever happening!

MOST children have good mental health. Wellness screening may seem unnecessary, especially when a parent does not have a concern regarding their child’s mental wellness. Just as with physical health, most parents will be reassured that their child’s mental health is typical! However, approximately 20-25% of children will experience a mental health concern. That is 5 children in a classroom of 20! Most mental health concerns are highly treatable, especially with early identification.

Occasionally children have been identified with a mental health concern and are already connected to a medical or mental health provider. A wellness screen may seem irrelevant since concerns have already been identified. On the contrary, a mental wellness screen is still recommended. The wellness screen can serve as an annual check-in and may be used to track improvements!

The school districts Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen serve are aware of how important mental wellness is! That is why they have chosen to not only offer the screening but have developed school based mental health initiatives. When a child is identified with a potential mental health concern, a masters level clinician will contact the family to learn more. Using information from the wellness screen and the parent conversation, a recommendation for next steps will be made. A clinician or case manager will then follow up with the family to offer information and support.

Even if your child’s wellness screen does not identify a concern, parents can always ask for assistance. Parenting is hard work. It is difficult to know what is “normal” and what may be a concern. Through Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen Program, a mental health clinician or case manager are available to answer your questions!

Visit our website www.samaritan-counseling.com/wellness-screen to learn more!

 

Amy D’Addario, MS, CSW, SAC
Connected Community Wellness Screen Site Coordinator
On-site Clinician at Samaritan Counseling Center

Amy D’Addario is the screening site coordinator and an on-site clinician with the  Connected Community Wellness Screen program for the Neenah Joint School District (HOPE), among seven additional school districts. Amy has over 15 years of experience serving children, youth and families in a variety of systems including child welfare, coordinated services, juvenile justice, adult corrections, and in private practice. Amy has also managed several county and statewide initiatives focused on mental health screening and services.

Contact Amy via email or at (920) 572-6674 (mobile) or (920) 751-6800 ext. 10704 (office).


Today Can Be the Day You Take a Stand

Seven Ways to Combat Domestic Violence

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Ed.D., LPC, Clinical Director at Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley

Nearly two in three corporate executives (63%) say domestic violence is a major problem in our society, and more than half (55%) cite its harmful impact on productivity in their companies.1 What do you think about these statistics? What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the phrase “domestic violence?” Some people think of aggressors, some think of children and some think of victims and believe victims who remain with abusive partners are weak, which is a huge misconception, among many. No matter your response, domestic violence is a pervasive and powerful negative force in our families and communities.

Domestic Violence is Widespread

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. It appears in many forms and exists in all socio economic classes, among all ages and genders, and among people of all educational levels. It can be of a verbal, emotional, or physical nature or a combination of these forms.

  • More than one in three women (35.6%) and more than one in four men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.2
  • Forty-three percent of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal, or controlling abuse.3
  • One in four dating teens is abused or harassed online or through texts by their partners.4
  • Thirty to 60 percent of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.5

Why do people abuse others? Abusive people believe they have the right to control and restrict their partners, and they often enjoy the feeling that exerting power gives them. They believe their own feelings and needs should be the priority in their relationships, so they use abusive tactics to make their partners feel less valuable and undeserving of respect. They “win” as their partners seek to fill all of their needs. But there is no victory in an imbalance of power in an intimate relationship. A healthy relationship is when the needs of both partners and their families are taken into consideration.

Help is Available

Relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy, to unhealthy, to abusive. If you feel that you are not in a healthy relationship, please reach out for help and support. There are many sources of help available to you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233), or click on the link to chat live. We also have excellent local domestic abuse service agencies through the Harbor House in Appleton at (920) 832-1666 and the Christine Ann Shelter in Oshkosh at (920) 235-5998 or 800-261-5998. If you are in danger, call 911. Consider an investment in your mental wellness and seek the support of a trained counselor or spiritual advisor.

We Can All Take a Stand

If you are not directly affected by domestic violence, you are most likely indirectly affected by it in your workplace, school, faith community, or friend groups. In fact, nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. You can make a difference for individuals and families by supporting domestic abuse services, especially during October, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

  1. Attend the Ultraviolet 2019 on October 11, an immersive art and performance event at the Fox Cities PAC in support of the Harbor House.
  2. Sign up for the 2019 Race for the Light on Dec. 7 in support of the Christine Ann Center.
  3. Support Samaritan Counseling Center’s uplifting Silent Samaritan Campaign and luncheon in May.
  4. Give to your local United Way.
  5. Learn how to support victims of domestic violence, ask questions, and help them find help.
  6. Advocate for victims in Wisconsin to change the laws to better support victims of domestic abuse.
  7. If you need help to develop healthy relationship skills, ask for help. There are people who have the training, skills, and compassion to help you.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to hold the door open for someone at the gas station the next time you go as you never will know how much a difference you will make in someone’s life today who is hurting, discouraged and without hope. Love one another as you want to be loved. If you don’t have the tools to do this please seek help as there are people who want to assist you in attaining those skills.  😊

Sources:

1,2,3 Statistics – The National Domestic Violence Hotline

3 College Dating Violence and Abuse Poll | Break the Cycle

4Teen Dating Abuse and Harassment in the Digital World

In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan Counseling Center, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.


We Do Weekly Devotions

Sustaining the Spirit in Spiritually-Integrated Mental Health Care

At Samaritan Counseling Center, our mission is to provide spiritually integrated mental health care to the people in the communities we serve. This means we take seriously each person’s faith and spiritual practices, and if they are willing, integrate these beliefs into their mental wellness care. In fact, part of employment at Samaritan is regular Wednesday devotions for all staff members; this is also the day our off-site team members travel to our main office to reconnect with one another.

Recently Jill Harp, our marketing and development coordinator, was the devotions leader. She read a children’s book about mindfulness and then helped lead staff members through a guided meditation. “I keep this book on my nightstand and read it occasionally to remind myself during very hectic or challenging times to be cognizant of the present moment and to enjoy the blue sky, nature, a good piece of chocolate, my kids’ laughter, or a smile from a friend,” she said. The clear and concise message in I am Peace, A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde is an excellent introduction to mindfulness for kids and adults alike. It was a creative and colorful way to share our weekly staff devotional time and a reminder that good children’s literature is inherently life-giving. Let’s all take a peaceful moment to remember that!


Recommended Quit Lit for Recovery Month

Posted on by Jill Harp

Every September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the recovery. In honor of those in recovery or battling active addictions, we want to recognize the wonderful possibilities of a life well-lived free of alcohol and other substance use and abuse, so we asked Samaritan staff to recommend their favorite “quit lit.” Be prepared for some excellent storytelling mixed with science, human psychology, recovery research, and humor.

The Naked Mind by Annie Grace: The Naked Mind has ignited a movement across the country, helping thousands of people forever change their relationship with alcohol.  Author Annie Grace clearly presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us.  Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, this book will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture, and how the stigma of alcoholism and recovery keeps people from getting the help they need. With Annie’s own extraordinary and candid personal story at its heart, this book is a must-read for anyone who drinks. This Naked Mind will give you freedom from alcohol. It removes the psychological dependence so that you will not crave alcohol, allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking). With clarity, humor, and a unique blend of science and storytelling, This Naked Mind will open the door to the life you have been waiting for.

Recovery takes many forms and is different for everyone. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is a helpful book and a useful Facebook Group. It’s authentic, honest, and full of wisdom and encouragement for people recovering from alcohol abuse or addiction.

 

Daily Reflections App: Start your day on a positive note with reflections by AA members for AA members. Also track your sobriety date. Aligns with AA literature and meeting format.

 

 

Jane Frantz, Development & Communications Director


Featured at Solihten National Conference

Posted on by Jill Harp

Samaritan’s Wellness Screen Serves as Example, Resource

The annual conference of the Solihten Institute, Samaritan Counseling Center’s accrediting organization, was held in Denver August 1-3, 2019. Executive Director Rosangela Berbert and Wellness Screen Program Director Jen Parsons attended to learn and network with colleagues. Jen presented a three-hour workshop for agencies across the country who are considering establishing a community mental wellness screening program similar to Samaritan’s own Wellness Screen.

Professionals from 25 different agencies attended the session to learn of Samaritan’s experiences and earned wisdom. Jen spoke about Samaritan’s Wellness Screen process, program model, successes, and data-driven outcomes. Attendees left the workshop with a readiness checklist to use back at their own agencies. Since returning home, Jen and her team have already been contacted by several agencies who are actively working to adopt the Wellness Screen model or optimize their own. Not only did Jen and Rosangela benefit from colleagues’ energy and affirmation, they discovered a critical need for coaching peer agencies on this type of program development across the nation. Samaritan is moved to embrace this business opportunity and call to leadership!


How to Save a Life

Posted on by Jill Harp

Suicide Prevention is Within Each Person: How You Can Help?
The loss of a person to suicide is especially tragic. For those left behind, the experience is complicated by added layers of guilt, shame, anger, and confusion. People left behind after a suicide are at higher risk for developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a form of prolonged grief called complicated grief. The pain of suicide is so intense, it motivates all of us to take action to prevent every potential act of suicide and compassionately care for family members and friends who are affected by suicide loss. You can help.

Get trained in QPR. Question-Persuade-Refer (QPR) is the evidenced-based protocol that prepares any person to intervene and help redirect a person who is considering suicide. Educators, faith leaders, youth mentors, and community members across Wisconsin and the U.S. are trained in QPR, the best-practice for responding to a person in crisis. Request free QPR training for you or your organization.

Support survivors. For every person who dies by suicide, there are up to six more suicide survivors—those left behind to grieve. Contemplate how you can be a companion in their grief. For example, commit to the long-term; save space for them while they are away from their normal roles, and speak warmly of the person they lost—don’t avoid his or her mention. So often we feel the need to do something or say something that makes sense of it all. Do help with practical matters like cooking and household tasks but place a priority on simply being present.

Lift your voice. In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day (9/10), during the weekend of September 6-8, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention invites faith communities across the nation, regardless of their tradition, creed or spiritual perspective, to pray for those whose lives have been touched by suicide. Save the date and join the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, & Life. Let’s lift our voices in prayer for those who have been impacted by suicide, for those who are dealing with mental health concerns and feelings of hopelessness, and for all the people who love and care for them. Check it out the many excellent resources for faith leaders the Action Alliance has prepared for this special purpose.

Get help for yourself or your loved ones.

Suicide Prevention Hotline
Schedule an appointment with a Samaritan therapist.

Rosangela Berbert, MSE, LPC, NCC

We Have Friends for Reasons and Seasons

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Becky Stellmacher, MSE, MS, LPC, Child and Adolescent Counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center

When you’re young, friends can be easy to find; friendship seems “easy-peasy”—then you and your friends get older. Young girls may have BFFs wearing necklaces that identify them as “Best Friends Forever,” until one gets mad and forever becomes never.

Young boys may hang out in groups and call themselves the “Three (or more!) Musketeers” until one (or more) of them goes rogue choosing to play soccer instead of football or bypasses sports altogether. High school and college friends promise to keep in touch for the rest of their lives. Then they throw graduation caps in the air and all of them go off to live their own lives—and discover social media is not the same as being with real friends.

The common thread is that we all have friends for reasons and seasons of our lives. They teach us how to share our joy and sadness; to forgive and be forgiven; to give someone another chance and embrace the second chance they give us; to support and be supported; and even to care for someone else as much, or sometimes more, than ourselves.

On Friendship Day on August 4, remember your friends in this season of your life and those from seasons past. Be grateful for all the reasons they are, or were, your friends and consider this quote from Christy Evans:

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.”

Reach for a star…Reach out to a friend 🙂

Becky Stellmacher, MSE, MS, LPC

As a former teacher, Becky Stellmacher has over 30-years’ experience working with youth of all ages and abilities. She has continued her journey working with youth at Samaritan Counseling Center as a licensed professional counselor. Becky works with children and teens facing a variety of challenges including: ADHD, autism, developmental disabilities, adoption, behavior issues, grief and loss, trauma, anxiety and depression. She works in our  Kaukauna and Menasha locations.

 


In Celebration of Women’s Equality Day: Four Ways to Live Your Life with Intention

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Hannah Keesler, MS, LPC, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center

Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 in the United States to commemorate the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment when women were granted the right to vote. American women have indeed fought hard to gain the same rights as men in several respects, and we continue to work to eliminate many more persistent disparities, including unequal pay and political representation. On a larger scale, we must remember the struggles and sacrifices of the women who came before us and advocate in their spirit and memory for continued progress toward gender equality.

As individuals, we can also have significant influence:

  • Celebrate! When we acknowledge and celebrate progress in women’s equality, we fuel hope, thoughtful discussion, and enthusiasm in our homes and communities.
  • Keep your heart and mind open. Those who embrace possibility, growth, and personal evolution grasp the significance of Women’s Equality Day and the decades of struggle that preceded the 19th  Amendment.
  • Make a concerted effort to embody and support the changes you seek in your everyday life; when you do, you turn dreams into reality for this generation and the next.
  • Delve deeper. Foster self-awareness, healthy families, and supportive communities. In these sacred spaces, relationships are nurtured and collaboration is inspired.

 

Hannah Keesler, MS, LPC

Hannah Keesler has been with Samaritan Counseling Center since 2013 and is a mental health and substance abuse therapist. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, adults and families for a variety of mental health concerns, including the following — among many others: depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, adjustment, trauma, anger management and relationship difficulties. Hannah not only see clients in our Menasha office, but also works with Samaritan’s resident therapists as their training coordinator.


The Importance of Cultural Competence

Posted on by Jill Harp

July is National Minority Mental Health Month

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Clinical Director

July is a special month set aside in our realm of work to recognize the special challenges and rewards associated with providing mental health care to people who are members of minority groups. National Minority Mental Health Month was established in 2008 to raise awareness of the distinctive struggles that underrepresented groups face with regard to cultural stigmas, access to services, and quality mental health care.

Multicultural issues are close to my heart because they were part of my specialization in my doctoral program. As part of my studies and research, I was privileged to work with, and learn from, individuals, couples, and families both on the Hopi Indian Reservation and along the Arizona-Mexico border. These experiences helped me learn how to provide better quality care to people in these distinctive communities.

This month—and every month— is a time to consider the stereotypes and other challenges that members of minority groups have to withstand while simultaneously striving to maintain their wellbeing. The list includes lack of culturally and linguistically quality care, external and internalized racism, and lack of knowledge by majority groups related to their cultural values. The complexity of these challenges is multiplied when we consider the varied cultural backgrounds of underrepresented groups. How can we become more culturally competent in our roles as counselors, therapists, friends, and neighbors?

  • Learn as much as possible. Read research and reports like the newly released national survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health from the Trevor Project.
  • Open your heart and mind to the lived experiences of people of different cultures and identities. Watch Strength Over Silence, a three-part docu-series produced by NAMI on the weighty subjects of courage, culture, and community.
  • Respect, respond, and innovate. Provide services that acknowledge and celebrate diverse cultures and world views, like Centro Esperanza, a Spanish-language counseling service for Latino adults, children and families in our community to access effective, high-quality, culturally appropriate mental health treatment and support.

Together we can do more, be more—and be there for one another.

Dr. Tracy Siebers

In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan Counseling Center, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.


Help Your Young Person Blossom With Six Steps to Foster Summertime Mental and Emotional Wellness

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director

School’s out for summer, and now our young sons and daughters may need help to recalibrate their schedules to nurture their mental and emotional wellness. A summer spent on screens or without meaningful activities has the potential to stall their development and waste opportunities for insightful experiences and supportive relationships. Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director, suggests that caring adults help guide the young people in their lives to invest in these summertime activities and routines:

Ensure Healthy Sleep

The phrase “sleep to grow” is indeed accurate. It’s a time when our body rests, rejuvenates, and regulates hormone levels that affect many important systems in our bodies. Young people secrete their growth hormones especially during deep sleep. Serious health problems like anxiety, depression, and obesity can be linked to poor sleep. But this does not mean teens should sleep until noon! Expect a consistent waking time after nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Try to make sure phones are completely turned off at bedtime and put outside their bedrooms.

Explore Nature

Go for a short nature walk or hike with your young person. Bring tempting snacks and pack a water bottle. Talk as you walk, but plan for short stints where you are silent. This will allow your companion(s) to experience the leaves, birds, and sunshine. Without pressing the issue, you are introducing the calming effects of nature and mindfulness, two valuable skills for dealing with a lifetime of complex experiences and stressors.

Foster Intergenerational Relationships

It can be intimidating or awkward for teens and pre-teens to engage with their elders, especially if grandparents or friends are beginning to experience cognitive decline. However, it’s also an enriching opportunity for them to learn empathy, absorb wisdom, and bring genuine joy to others. Accompany young people on visits and integrate them into your conversations. Start with phrases like, “Look what I found. . . .” Or “I’ve brought something you might like …” and then share an old recipe card, photo, or toy. Listen to the fascinating stories! Older children who play an instrument can perform a short concert—that’s always a hit.

Cook Up a New Tradition

Try for regular trips to the farm market with your family. Walk or bike there if you can. Empower young people to choose their own fruits and vegetables. That night, cut and chop together and create a salad or meal.

Get to Work

Make a conscious choice to encourage a strong age-appropriate work ethic over the summer, whether it’s contributing to household chores, volunteering to re-stack books at the library, helping mow grandma’s lawn, or getting paid at a part-time job. Facilitate project-based-learning like gardening. Choosing seeds, weeding, and watering teach valuable lessons about food, flowers, and project management, all with tangible results. Every day should have purpose and reinforce feelings of resourcefulness and self-esteem, even if it’s just an hour or two a day. Also, these interactions help build relationships and references that will support a young person as he or she grows into writing a résumé or job and college applications.

Make Memories

The stories of a healthy childhood do not require lavish trips to Disney. They are written in the small moments you spend with your young children and friends, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Reading books, making art, listening and talking, baking, going for walks, picking flowers, playing catch, or reminiscing about the good old days will make for a happy and healthy summer and a lifetime of memories.

In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan Counseling Center, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.