Stuyvesant Partners with Organizations for Mental Health

The Stuyvesant Counseling Department, School Leadership Team, and School Security Team have made progress regarding the mental health infrastructure for Stuyvesant students after the transition to in-person learning.

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By James Lee

As Stuyvesant transitioned from remote to in-person learning, the Stuyvesant Counseling Department, School Leadership Team, Social Emotional Leadership Team (SEL), and Security Team partnered with three organizations to support students’ mental health: Counseling in Schools (CIS), My Robin, and Authentic Connections. The administration hopes that the implementation of these organizations will support students and reinforce the existing efforts of the guidance office.

CIS looks to support growth within the community and solidify the foundation of social and emotional development. Authentic Connections aims to send comprehensive surveys throughout the school year to understand the relationship between the student body and faculty to better the well-being of the Stuyvesant community, the first of which is intended to come out in the upcoming weeks. This past summer, freshman students participating in the Summer Rising Program run by biology teacher and Assistant Principal of Teacher Development and Data Systems Marianne Prabhu used My Robin, an online platform used to self-reflect and offer assistance to students to enhance their resiliency and find their identity.

The SEL includes Principal Seung Yu, Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick, Assistant Principal of World Language, Art, and Music Francesca McAuliffe, Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram, and Prabhu. They participate in weekly discussions to go over the SEL Reintegration Plan. Social worker Arleen Novarese and CIS therapist Sapphire Chao, who have been working closely with the guidance office to better support the administration, will also join them.

Additionally, social worker Dani Thompson has been brought to Stuyvesant to assist students and aid in filling the gap of mental health help. “I have had friends who are educators at high schools that say that there is such a lack of mental health services in schools overall,” Thompson said. “This could be a very great place to help bridge that gap.”

Many of the organizations’ services are available to the student body, each adding a different component of promoting the overall mental health of the student body. Chao will provide art therapy to students as one of her services. Art therapy will be provided in two forms: an Open Art Studio every Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in room 1005 after school starting on October 19 and an Art-Based Relaxation Group on Mondays from 3:45 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. starting on October 25 in room 236Q.

Chao is also dedicated to supporting students who feel stressed and need emotional support in private sessions. “Usually the therapy session is cool. It is more preventive because you don’t need to get any diagnosis to see me. You could [see me] if you feel so [stressed], need emotional support, or need to regulate your emotions. I feel like a partner with students to regulate any emotions that they have,” Chao said.

Chao is not only a CIS counselor but also a licensed New York State Creative Arts therapist. “I can engage with students in creative and playful ways to share information and experience with students,” Chao said.

The motivation behind these endeavors comes from recognizing the impact of the pandemic on mental health and believing this project will help bring support to the students. “Partnering with these organizations [will] assist us in our efforts to bolster social emotional programs for our students. We want as much support for our students as possible,” Ingram said in an e-mail interview.

As the school year has just begun, many students are slowly adjusting to the in-person rhythm again, but as the year continues, the administration finds it likely that maintaining this rhythm will be difficult. “As the academics here go on, stress builds,” Novarese said. “I anticipate the higher need for support at that time.”

Others acknowledge the need to break the stigma surrounding mental health. “Going to a counselor or therapist when you are feeling sad or overwhelmed should be as normal as going to the doctor when you have the flu. Let's end the stigma about mental health,” Pedrick said.

CIS feels that their partnership with Stuyvesant is currently making progress. Program Manager for CIS Patty Hennessy is responsible for cultivating the relationship between CIS and Stuyvesant staff, including the guidance department and Yu. “We had a really productive meeting with [Pedrick] and the whole guidance counseling team. That was amazing and I feel like that was part of the relationship building,” Hennessy said. “Everyone I have met so far has been so warm and welcoming and I feel that lends to such an effectively impactful program.”

The new staff members hope to leave the message that there are services available to support students when needed. “You are not alone. There is support here.” Novarese said. “If [students] are feeling stressed, if they want to talk, if they want a referral for additional support, or if they just want a space to vent, I am there for all of it.”