We interviewed District Wellness Coordinator Mrs. Katie Newman! She is based in Georgia where she is serving to help provide wellness resources to students and families across the county. Learn about her take on mental health!
Question: What is the main focus of your job?
Answer: The main focus of my job is addressing barriers to wellness needs of students and families all across Forsyth county. I look through the lens of a social worker, not only looking at internal challenges but also environmental.
Question: How many years have you worked in the wellness field? Why did you choose this career pathway?
Answer: I have worked in school social work for 14 years. I wanted to help students and families with a wide net of challenges. Education has been such a powerful tool for students to create connections, a sense of purpose and belonging, and avoid negative life altering decisions. I was a youth camp leader and I always wanted to help students but did not yet have the skills for their greater needs. In worship, I remember thinking “if not you then who?” I've always had a strong sense of social justice so it just made sense to look into a career in social work.
Question: What is your favorite wellness activity?
Answer: My favorite wellness activities are ones that recharge my battery. I love running and playing guitar because it helps reduce stress and anxiety. When I am running, the rhythm of the right and left foot helps settle my mind.
Question: What does the term mental health mean to you?
Answer: Mental health is not only the absence of illness but also the possession of skills necessary to cope with life challenges.
Question: What do you think are the most effective ways to spread mental health awareness?
Answer: I think building relationships and conversation. PSAs and billboards bring thoughts that come and go but starting a conversation can make an impact. With my Native American background, narratives and storytelling is very important. It helps people remember the personal statements, building resilience and coping skills.
Question: What is the most important component to maintaining positive wellness growth?
Answer: Keeping a growth mindset and help-seeking behavior are the most important components to maintaining positive growth. With the growth mindset, knowing that your situation no matter how hard is temporary. Staying hopeful is essential. When you feel comfortable seeking help when you need it, you feel supported.
Question: How do you think other areas of wellness relate to mental health?
Answer: I think all areas of wellness: Financial, Environmental, Emotional, Relational/Social, Cultural, Occupational, Intellectual, and Physical all impact mental health. For example, with physical wellness if your diet is lacking it can impact you, your gut is your second brain.
Question: Is there any advice you would give to someone who is struggling?
Answer: You are not alone, this is only temporary. You are worthy. Everyone struggles with mental health. It spans across different economic status, gender, age, and lifespan. We are not perfect nor are our lives meant to be but in order to thrive, we need to seek out what will help us grow. Remember that things can be difficult but you can be okay. In the eye of a hurricane, chaos can surround you but there can be calmness within.
We interviewed High School Counselor Mrs. Amy Short! She is based in Georgia where she is serving to help high school students navigate through their tough times. Learn about her take on mental health!
Question: What does the term mental health mean to you?
Answer: My definition of mental health is that it represents how your whole self is feeling. It's not just your physical health or how your body is feeling but it's all a part of who you are [mentally]. When we're talking about mental health we're talking about: Are you happy? Are you feeling satisfied in the things that you're doing? Are you feeling confident in yourself? Are you feeling able to tackle the day? It is almost like the untouchable companion to your physical health, it can be good or it can be bad and a lot of it deals with the circumstances.
Question: What is your school counseling/educational philosophy?
Answer: My school counseling philosophy is for my students to know, as long as it isn't within the realm of ethical or illegal, I will do whatever I can to support them. That is why I am here, that's really what drives everything that I do as a school counselor. If we need to sit down and you don't know where to start, that’s ok, I'm going to listen to you. I'm going to hear you. I'm going to treat you respectfully. It's super important to me that I listen to you and I want you to know that you are being heard because if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.
Question: What do you think is the most important characteristic of a school counselor? What's the most essential characteristic that provides a supportive environment for students?
Answer: I think it's super important as a school counselor to be an advocate for our students. [More specifically] knowing that I'm going to help you if you need help no matter what the topic or issue is. Listening and advocating are the most important characteristics.
Question: What is the most innovative counseling technique you have used?
Answer: School counselors at the high school level aren’t always able to do a lot of group counseling sessions where you may use certain techniques. We are not licensed Mental Health [professionals] so you have to be careful ethically to stay in the role of school counselor and not therapist. When I started this job I was 23 and [my students] were teens, [so] we weren't far apart in age. [However,] students continue to stay in their teens and I keep aging. I hope what I bring is not a fancy innovative trick, but more trying to be relatable in my conversation and stay up to date with what is going on.
Question: Is there any advice you would give to someone who is struggling?
Answer: It is super hard to be a teenager these days. I would want a student who is struggling to hear me say that. I hope that opens a door for them to let them know that I am on their side. While I don't know what it's like to be a teenager now [I know that it is] very difficult. We ask that you take challenging classes, be involved in clubs, play sports, and even work part-time. We encourage you to do all this. However, we still say that you also need to have fun with your friends and need to go out for pizza on Friday nights. We somehow expect that as a teenager, you can and should manage all of these things and do it with a smile. It's unfortunate because at the same time that I'm telling [students] to do all of these, the very next breath I'm also telling you that you need to take care of yourself and find ways to relax. I can see how that is very confusing and overwhelming.
Question: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Answer: I want to tell students that [school counselors] can do so much more than just schedule changing. We are all master’s level educated at a minimum and I promise in our graduate programs, schedule changing was no part of what we learned. We are here to support you in so many different ways. So what I want students here to realize, like I said earlier, is if you're not sure who to ask, if you just need to talk, or if you just maybe want to come sit on the floor and look out the window, that's okay. Come to your counselor. I want students to be able to walk in that door, be greeted by a friendly face, and have whatever it is addressed. Even if I don't know the answer or I'm not the right person, we will figure it out. It’s going to be okay.
We interviewed Psychiatrist, Dr. Suzanna Chen! She is a board-certified MD psychiatrist who owns her own private boutique practice in Manhattan, New York. Learn more about her take on mental Health!
Question: What is the main focus of your job & how many years of schooling did it take? What’s your favorite part of your job?
Answer: The main focus of my job is to improve mental health. I work to enhance and maximize wellness, and not just treat illness. I mainly do this through therapy and lifestyle changes. I can also add medications in some cases, only if appropriate and truly needed. In terms of school and training; it took 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and then 4 years of residency. However, this is an exciting and an ever changing field and it is good to continue to learn throughout your whole career. I do this through attending conferences, attending talks, and reading new research. My favorite part is making a positive difference in people's lives.
Question: What inspired you to choose this career path?
Answer: People's stories. I am always in awe and humbled with the privilege of being there with others, through the ups and downs. This career lets me combine science and creativity. It is what satisfies my ikigai, combining what I love, what I am good at, what can help the world, and what can be a profession.
Question: What does “mental health” mean to you?
Answer:Mental health for me is part of the whole human being, just like physical health. To me this also means that it can be worked on and improved as part of general self care.
Question: What do you think is the best way to spread mental health awareness?
Answer: In whatever way we can. This can look different for each one of us, whether it is by just being there for one of our good friends or whether it is by joining organizations and advocating for public policy changes. For me personally, I try to do this in a variety of ways. I explain how great mental health self-care is to people I know. I use social media to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma since that's what many people use and I can reach a bigger population. I also presented at the United Nations to try to reach a more global population.
Question: Tell us about how you approach counseling/treatment and how you individualize treatment for a client.
Answer: I look at each person's story, each situation, and each goal. Each human is different and there's no one-size-fits-all for the complexity of the human experience.
Question: How do you help a patient/student maintain positive growth?
Answer: Just like physical activity and healthy eating is a continuous process, positive mental health growth is a continuous process. Through therapy I try to pass on the skills that will persevere forever and will be useful no matter what comes up in the future.
Question: How would you describe the path to recovery of mental health in terms length and difficulty?
Answer: Each path is unique to the person and the situation, so there's a large variation in length and difficulty.
Question: You notice a change in your friend’s behavior and they tell you they feel helpless. How would you respond?
Answer: It depends on the situation. But in general I would start with being there and listening to my friend. I would want them to know that they aren't alone and that they are being heard. I would also want to try to make sure my friend is safe, as that is a priority. Additionally, just as I would support that my friend go to their own dentist and get the professional treatment that they deserve if their tooth hurts, I would also support that they get help from a mental health professional if professional evaluation and treatment is needed.
We interviewed Mental Health Consultant, Zura Rubab Khan! She is based in Pakistan where she is serving as a certified professional in the Mental Health career field. Learn about her take on mental health!
QUESTION: What is the main focus of your job?
ANSWER: The main focus of my job is to help people who are suffering in silence and who might never get a chance to reach out for professional help for their mental health concerns & conditions.
QUESTION: What inspired you to choose this career path?
ANSWER: I chose this career path because I always had this humanitarian approach towards people & life! I am more of an empathetic person by nature and that is one of the many reasons I’m just passionate about my job. Additionally, it genuinely makes me happy to promote positivity in our community!
QUESTION: What does “mental health” mean to you?
ANSWER: Well, for me, mental health is one of the most necessary subjects for people to be educated and aware of. It also is about how important it is to normalize the stigma that revolves around the mental illness.
QUESTION: Tell us about how you approach counseling treatment and how you individualize treatment for a client.
ANSWER: Every individual is unique and different, and may have different personalities and mental capacities! So, the treatment plan/interventions that we, counselors or mental health consultants/therapists, decide will also be different for every person according to the proper assessments and diagnosis.
QUESTION: How do you help a client/patient maintain positive growth?
ANSWER: This is a really good question. Promoting and maintaining positive growth is essential and vital to mental health. Since almost all of the conflicts that start in a person's life are due to the negative, hopeless mindset; I would definitely love to advise the people that mental well-being is far more important than anything that costs your mental peace!
QUESTION: How would you describe the path to recovery of mental health in terms of length and difficulty?
ANSWER: First and foremost, we need to provide psycho-education to our people because psychological counseling, or any therapeutic approach, doesn’t work like magic! IT DOES TAKE TIME. Educating our people will help them realize that we are dealing with human emotions/ feelings and behaviors. So, it takes a while to work on these sensitive concerns regarding their mind. Furthermore, we need to assist them in understanding that these emotions have been a part of their personality for so long, maybe years. So, a bit of patience & acceptance is necessary in this “journey of healing”.
QUESTION: What advice would you give someone who is struggling with a mental illness?
ANSWER: I would advise anyone who is suffering from any sort of a mental illness/condition to start believing that your mental illness doesn’t ever make you weak in any way. Just because your mental illness isn’t visible doesn’t mean that it is not real. Please seek professional help because asking for professional mental help itself is the most courageous act to do! So, make your mental health a priority because YOU MATTER!
Wellness Coordinator of Forsyth County Schools
Zura Rubab Khan
Certified CBT Therapist/Counselor
Certified Relationship Coach