Hamilton County Implements New Mental Health Curriculum


Danae Wnuk

HAMILTON COUNTY IMPLEMENTS NEW MENTAL HEALTH CURRICULUM — Hamilton County implements a new mental health curriculum to better assist students with their transition to adulthood.

Danae Wnuk, Staff Writer

The Hamilton County Counseling Department has initialized a new method of preparing students academically and emotionally for higher education and successful careers. The new program intends to record interventions with students by collecting data from the school’s counselling department.

The main focus for the 2019-2020 school year is Tier One: support and core instructions, which all students receive. The county will be enforcing school-wide procedures such as classroom guidance, individual student planning, as well as district programs and activities. The goal of this program is to enhance student education by addressing student mental health.

The curriculum is a multi-tiered system which aims to meet the academic and behavioral needs of each student. It is based on ASCA’s national model, which strives to keep school counseling simple and less demanding for counselors. The national model recommends 250 students per counselor. Hamilton County Schools have an average of 300 students per counselor. Some schools divide students alphabetically, as Central had done in the past. Currently, Central uses grade level as a distinction. Mrs. Shea Vetterick, the senior advisor, attends to 206 students, Mrs. Chelsea Thornhill, the junior counselor, has around 400, and Mrs. Karen Atkins, who counsels the freshmen, has 208.

Occasionally, counselors from Centerstone visit Central to take some of the pressure off of Central’s advisors. Mrs. Claire is the main counselor from Centerstone who visits twice a week to provide help and support.

“Students go through so much academically, socially, and emotionally in their four years of high school. Education on mental health and ways to advocate for yourself are very important,” explained Mrs. Vetterick. “Reaching students school-wide can definitely shift the perspective on mental health and self care to reduce the negative stigma.”

Mrs. Vetterick finished an undergrad education in child psychology at East Tennessee State University (ETSU)and later got her master’s in school counseling at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She had a bit of background information in pediatrics at ETSU before she changed her direction of study.

“I like this job because I like seeing students from the beginning to the end and how much they grow, and just seeing confidence in themself and independence,” added Mrs. Vetterick. “I also like seeing students trusting me with their problems and being able to help them come up with different coping skills or plans. It’s just never the same day twice, so it keeps you busy; it’s interesting.”

Students were briefed last week regarding how to deal with stress during a meeting led by Mrs. Vetterick. At the end of the meeting, they were given free stress balls. They were also told to draw a face on a Post-it Note depicting how they were feeling at the moment. On the back of the note, they were instructed to draw a check mark if they needed to meet in private with Mrs. Vetterick, an “X” if they did not need an intervention, and a question mark if they were unsure.

“It felt like a sign, because people in my last class were having a meltdown,” said one senior student, Mayra Salgado. “It was absolutely needed, and I hope that [the school] pay[s] more attention to [its] students’ mental health.”

The Central counselors also created a Google Drive form that students can fill out in order to make an appointment with their advisors. The form was sent out through email to each student, and some posters were placed in the bathrooms to create more awareness about these forms. Students can also directly email their counselors or visit them in person when seeking help.