“Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and kids are saying, “don’t forget about us”! Mental health awareness and wellness is important for people of all ages. In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, our special guest for this blog feature is Ms. Tracy Johnson.
ProfessorJBA: Welcome to EdLanta Tracy! Tell us about your role at your current school in Georgia.
Tracy: My role at Latin College Prep is RTI/SST/504 Chair.
ProfessorJBA: How many years have you been in education?
Tracy: This year makes my 19th in education with 4 of those years serving as a middle school special education teacher/case coordinator.
ProfessorJBA: Why is the topic of mental health so important, especially to the Black community?
Tracy: Having served in the field of education, mental health awareness is extremely important because so many of the families we serve, particularly in the African-American community, are affected directly or indirectly by mental illness. This is the reality that many families, friends and educators are faced with handling.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “One in five youth live with a mental health condition, but less than half of these individuals receive needed services.”
ProfessorJBA: Can screening in grade school years help?
Tracy: Screening for mental health in schools could help to identify and treat students early and perhaps thwart the epidemic of depression and suicidal ideation. This is especially important for all grade levels even though the onset of mental illness is said to be the age of 14.
ProfessorJBA: Educators play a critical role in our student’s lives. Should they be aware of indicators or signs?
Tracy: As a former special education teacher, advocate and parent, it is extremely important that educators are aware and sensitive to the needs of all student. Conversely, it is necessary to identify those students with mental exceptionalities and provide them with adequate resources and mold them with an unbiased disposition. Being aware of this population of students is more than a job for administration, counselors or social workers-it is the responsibility of all. As the RTI/SST/504 Chair,
It is my responsibility to make sure students are identified and receive modifications and accommodations in the classroom based on each individual, medical, physical and emotional needs that have been identified by a trained evaluator. These students are entitled the rights by both educational and federal laws. It is my responsibility to make sure parents and teachers alike, are aware of the laws and all the components of them to help the students.
ProfessorJBA: SEL has shown some positive signs of support for students in the SST/RTI process.
Tracy: Yes! Social and emotional learning(SEL) and Restorative practices in schools have evidence to be an effective model to use in schools for overall student success. Arming students with the knowledge of emotional management and social cohesiveness, has been proven to help students cooperate and build the culturally relevant communities within the school and outside community.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.