At Broad Run High School, we have seen an increase in student visits to the counseling office due to stress and emotional issues. Needs assessment results from the 2016-207 school year indicated that 68% of the student body wanted to learn more about ways to manage stress. School data has shown a decline in our overall annual attendance rate and anecdotal data from the school nurse and attendance secretary indicated an increase in the number of students leaving early for emotional reasons.
In alignment with our mission and selected ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors, counselors ran groups that focused on building relationships (B-SS 3), strengthening resiliency, finding balance (M 1, B-SMS 7 & 8), and improving attendance. Small groups were typically run by the school psychologist or social worker with one or two co-led by a school counselor. However, due to the increase in mental health concerns, Broad Run counselors broadened their small group initiative this year and each counselor, including the Director, co-led at least one group to increase social/emotional services provided to our students.
Counselors reviewed their caseloads and identified 15 at risk students in grades 9-12 who showed a decline in grades and attendance due to stress and split them into three stress management groups. 4 boys receiving special education services were placed in one group, 3 girls and 1 boy who showed a decline in academic performance were placed in another, and 6 girls were grouped together based on frequent visits to the counseling office and early dismissals due to stress and anxiety. From the needs assessment results, counselors identified 8 students requesting support for family issues who also showed a decline in grades and/or attendance. 4 girls were placed in a Modern Families group that focused on divorce and changing families. 2 girls and 2 boys were placed in a group for Children of Alcoholics.
The stress management group with 6 girls became our focus group for the RAMP process because they collectively had over 20 early dismissals due to stress or emotional reasons by the end of the first quarter. These students were also seen frequently in the counseling office the previous school year. Of the 6 girls, only 5 agreed to participate in the group. To support our goal of improving attendance and promotion rates for Hispanic students, we identified 6 boys and 6 girls at risk of not promoting to the next grade level or meeting on-time graduation, and established a plan to run two groups (see Closing the Gap narrative).
In addition to providing depression awareness and suicide prevention lessons for all students and partnering with the PEER class and We’re All Human club to plan student-led efforts to improve stress management skills, counselors felt that working with students in a small group setting would allow us to address these issues more effectively and on a more personal level. Individual needs were assessed through pre-surveys and group lessons helped students understand types of stress, physical symptoms and negative effects of stress, as well as identify and increase use of healthy coping skills. Counselors introduced strategies that were relevant and appropriate for each group member and students were encouraged to build relationships with other students experiencing similar stressors.
Of the 28 students who participated in a small group this year, 70% showed an increase in grades and 92% showed an increase in attendance. Of the 5 girls who participated in Stress Management Group 1, 100% showed improvement in their overall attendance and early dismissals decrease by 88.8% from Q1 to Q3. They reported a 50% increase in their ability to manage stress and a 75% increase in their ability to identify coping skills, physical warning signs of stress, and thinking traps. Feelings about their attendance improved by 50% and 100% of the members felt group was beneficial (see DATA Report-Stress Management).
We believe the data is promising and plan to continue running small groups to reduce student stress. However, despite numerous efforts to improve student resiliency, more collaborative work is needed with our Mental Health Team, the Pupil Services team who oversees school counseling, our administrative team, and parents in the community, to explore additional ways to address this increase in stress and anxiety that our students are experiencing. We plan to use data from our groups to facilitate more dialogue with our administration to increase school-wide efforts and get more assistance and support from teachers to help reduce student stress.