Metea implements new mental health coordinator position to assist students’ specific needs

Noelle Smagala

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Metea Valley has always placed emphasis on the mental health of its students, whether through groups such as Mental Health Club, to various workshops discussing the experiences of students. But the school has taken one more step forward to provide even more opportunities for students to seek out the assistance they need.

As of the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Metea will have a Mental Health Coordinator alongside its two psychologists and three social workers, a position that the school is implementing in hopes of fulfilling the more specific health needs of students. Janine Wange, who was previously a school psychologist, will take up the new position.

“We’ve been fighting for a long time to expand our services because right now, we are very tied to special education supports and minutes. Although our passions lie in working with students individually or in groups, the time just hasn’t been there. So this year, we are expanding the role of the school counselor, and we are getting two additional school counselors next year,” Wange says.

Wange also elaborates that currently, in-school counseling is less consistent because the time counselors would otherwise have to provide ongoing therapy is eaten up by other scheduling conflicts, such as meetings or specific evaluations. But as the school continues to make changes, she stresses that the door is always open for students to receive immediate help. 

“During crisis situations, we’ll have kids come down from class, and they’ll be excused. In the houses I work in, which are Honor and Merit, we allow students to come in, and they can sit or talk, or they can use the strategies they’ve already learned like journaling, listening to music, or even just having a snack. The role is a mix of dealing with crises and also students who have come down and want to build some skills.”

Whether referred by themselves or someone else, if students are hurting themselves, people are hurting them, or they’re threatening to hurt others, that’s when confidentiality is broken. “I let the student guide how much parents and teachers are involved. I want to help bridge that gap, and we are helping students problem solve how to solve issues on their terms,” Wange states.

As well as taking up the demands of her current job, Ms. Wange also runs the run the Mental Health Matters group, which as of next year will function as a club. “We’re trying to recruit more people! It’s more of an advocacy for everyone in the building kind of group, and I feel that there’s a misconception that it’s for students who need help, which it could be, but between my role and this club, we work hard to make sure that someone is always available. The goal is to create a Metea that is welcoming and safe for all students to support mental health and to support having a balanced life,” Wange says.