The National Center for Youth Issues has created a series called 15 Minute Focus: Brief Counseling Techniques that Work. These short, comprehensive guides are a great addition to any school counselor’s library. Each one provides an overview of information on the designated topic, counseling techniques, tips for school staff and parents, and resources. I have found these books make an excellent resource for creating a much needed faculty training or parent awareness session.
This blog post will focus on the 2 newest additions to the 15 Minute Focus series, Self-Harm and Self-Injury: When Emotional Pain BecomesPhysical by Leigh Bagwell and Depression: Signs and Strategies for Counselors, Educators, and Parents by Dr. Melisa Marsh.
The 15 Minute Focus: Self-Harm and Self-Injury: When Emotional Pain Becomes Physical by Leigh Bagwell, includes not only thorough background on the difference in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal ideation, but a list of myths, a great section on replacement behaviors, cautions about social contagions, and a link to a downloadable resource guide (code included with each book). At the end of every chapter the author includes questions to consider, key points, and a brief “student story” which provides practioners a unique perspective on some of the factors that influence young people to engage in NSSI.
For schools or districts that have not developed specific protocols for addressing the needs of students when NSSI is suspected, this book discusses how to create a self-injury protocol. Its suggestions help schools create a specific action plan utilizing assessment teams, suggested assessment tools, the steps for intervening when a student is suspected of NSSI, engaging families, and student follow-up.
The 15 minute Focus Depression: Signs and Strategies for Counselors, Educators, and Parents by Dr. Melisa Marsh, begins by taking a much needed look at the difference in depression and sadness. Too often our students and their families will self-identify as having depression because they are experiencing feelings of sadness. While sadness is the primary symptom of depression, it is not the correct term for sadness caused by specific event. Helping students, their families, and staff understand the definition of depression is a great starting point.
There is a very helpful chapter on symptoms and key warning signs and another on the links between depression and other mental illnesses. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression can be challenging for the caring adults in a student’s life as some of the symptoms, like irritability, forgetting to complete assignments, and being hypersensitive can look like the norm for pre-teens and teens going through puberty. These are chapters you will want to refer to as a guide when determining the appropriate referrals for your students.
Depression is significantly correlated with poor academic performance and students with higher rates of depression are less likely to graduate high school. Because students sometimes lack the necessary language skills or the awareness to report their depressed state many will go undetected. This is why it is essential to enlist the help of school leadership in training our staff and parents on the signs and symptoms of depression, how to make appropriate referrals, and how to engage students by creating a supportive learning environment.
School counselors will especially appreciate the chapters on the “Mind and Depression” and “Tools for Schools.” These chapters provide counselors with positive thinking strategies and a descriptive list of research-based tools that can be used by school counselors to help students dealing with depression.