Thursday, September 29, 2016

Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month (The Other A.C.T)

September is known as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  We want to make sure to give resources to students and families surrounding this really difficult topic.  One thing that we do each year is present the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program to the 9th grade class.  We want students to know how to be a compassionate friend to others who may need help and to give them the skills and tools they need so they don't feel like they have to shoulder all of the concerns.  The purpose is NOT to diagnose anyone! Often when students are confronted by another student who shares these thoughts with them, they don't know what to do.  This program is designed to assist and get students in touch with warning signs in an effort to prevent a tragedy from occurring.  

The acronym that is used throughout the SOS program is A.C.T..  We are not referring to the college admissions test.  We are talking about ACKNOWLEDGING their own feelings or their friend's feelings and listening to what they have to share.  We talk about CARING responses and how to show compassion to others in a difficult moment.  And, finally, we talk about how to TELL a responsible adult the concerns so that they or the friend can get the help they need.

We never want to ignore a warning sign from a student in crisis. As a community, we need to have each other’s backs and be on the lookout for students in need.  We should be fostering a support system for all students.  In an ideal world, every student would have a friend to sit with at lunch, be involved in an activity, have mentors, feel successful in academics, have an environment at home that was loving and supportive, and would feel happy and healthy throughout adolescence.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case. We cannot control every factor, but we can do our best to be a light in their world!  Some students struggle every day to persist in their everyday activities - and there are days that it just seems unbearable.  Hopefully, we can be a community that has positive influence on each other, be the community that opens its arms to those who need it, and be the community that can step up and show love and compassion rather than doubt and judgment.  Let's do this!

Here are just a few of the warning signs that a student in crisis might show:
  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Giving away items that are important to them
Let's chat about ways a student can get help!  Students in crisis can get help from an adult immediately.  At school, a student may share information with a teacher, coach, or counselor and all of us have been trained on suicide prevention protocol.  Outside of school, there are also many people who can help – trusted adults may include a parent, minister/pastor, coach, aunt/uncle, grandparent, etc.   The first step is to ask for help which can be really scary and overwhelming at first.  

There are also crisis hotlines to assist.  
  • Fulton County Department of Mental Health Hotline - 404-730-1600
  • Georgia Crisis & Access Line - 1-800-715-4225
  • National Crisis Line - 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).
The National Alliance on Mental Illness states: Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background.  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that effect people when are most vulnerable.  The good news is, there is HOPE!!  There are so many resources to support students through this difficult time in their life.  

It is difficult to do so when every day is a battle.  So, if someone is feeling hopeless and wants to hurt themselves - please use the ACT protocol of Acknowledge their concerns and listen to their struggles.  Care about them!  Let them know you want to help.  The last step, again, is to Tell a trusted adult so that they can get the help that is needed.  Do not promise to keep secrets.  

Our hope is that if a student or other person feels this way, they will reach out for support.  Our goal is for students to live happy, healthy, productive lives.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Meet Your Counseling Team!

Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year!  We thought you might want to know the team that is in place this year.  We are here to serve you so get to know us.  We are fortunate to have 5 school counselors, 1 graduation coach, 1 school social worker, 2 bilingual community liaisons, a records coordinator, a professional assistant, a clinic assistant and a cluster nurse.  We are a big team dedicated to assisting you.  

Curtisa Johnson - New Head Counselor
Serving Last Names DAS - I

Mrs. Johnson is from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  She received her Bachelor's degree in English from Carleton College; Master's in School Counseling from University of Georgia; Leadership add-on from Kennesaw and a Specialist in Leadership from University of North Georgia. She started her journey in school counseling 19 years ago at Centennial High School. She then worked at Chattahoochee HS from 05-09, then worked at Alpharetta HS and Milton HS. She's now back at her favorite school as head counselor. Her favorite treats include milk chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered cherries and strawberries - you get the point :)

Elizabeth Chilson - School Counselor
Serving Last Names A - DAP

Mrs. Chilson is a native Georgian, growing up in Stone Mountain. She received her Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Georgia State University.  Her Master's of Education is from University of Montevallo in Alabama.  Her Specialist in School Counseling is from the University of Georgia.  Go Dawgs! She worked in higher education for 9 years prior to becoming a school counselor.  This is her 10th year as a counselor.  Her first year at Chattahoochee was last school year.  It was an awesome year and feels the love at the Hooch! Her favorite treats include iced coffee, peanut M&Ms, and anything chocolate related.

Allison Shuler - School Counselor
Serving Last Names J - MI

Ms. Shuler is our world traveler! She hails from Gainesville, Georgia, but has traveled to 16 countries and will be going to 2 more before the end of 2016.  Wow.  She studied Psychology at the University of Georgia and then received her Master's degree in School Counseling at UGA as well.  Her internship was at Milton High School and once she graduated she took at position here at Chattahoochee.  She loves the families and students she gets to help here at the Hooch. She will also be getting married in November!  It's an exciting year for Ms. Shuler.  Her favorite treats are wildberry skittles and lifesaver gummies.

Deborah Blount - School Counselor
Serving Last Names Mo - SEM

Ms. Blount is also a Georgia native from Roswell.  She is a serious animal lover and wanted to be a vet for a long time - until she realized her true passion for school counseling!  She transferred between 3 different schools for her undergraduate degree finishing with a Bachelor's in Psychology from Kennesaw.  She earned her Master's in Education and Specialist in Education from Georgia State (Go Panthers!).  Ms. Blount started school counseling 10 years ago at Chattahoochee and she is the school counselor who has been on staff the longest! She loves building relationships with students and their families.  It's her favorite part of school counseling. Her favorite treats are Cherry Coke, Dr. Pepper, Twizzlers, and Peanut Butter M&Ms.

Tammy Jones - School Counselor
Serving Last Names SEN - Z

Mrs. Jones is originally from New York City - Spanish Harlem!  She received her Bachelor's degree in Marketing from Johnson C. Smith University.  She earned her Master's in School Counseling from Mercer University.  When an opportunity opened up at Chattahoochee she jumped at the chance to work here.  (Who wouldn't, right?)  She has 2 children who are Chattahoochee grads and one currently in school here, so she is a proud Hooch Parent as well as being a school counselor! Her favorite treats are peanut M&Ms and popcorn.  Yum.

Haaris Quraishy - Graduation Coach
Serving all students!

Coach Q, as he is affectionately called, is here to assist all students who may be off track or need assistance graduating on time.  He was at one time a social studies teacher at CHS and joined the counseling office last school year.  What I know for sure (because he did not fill out my survey) is that he loves working at Chattahoochee.  He loves his family and has 2 little girls who are adorable.  He also is the Women's Basketball Coach!  His favorite treats - really anything.  He's not gonna say no.

Alicia McClung - School Social Worker
Serving all students!

She is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana and studied Social Work at Indiana University.  She has been at Chattahoochee since 2012, but also serves one other high school in addition to her Cougar family.  Social workers are here to help students on their road to success.  She loves the diversity of Chattahoochee as well as a staff that loves being around teenagers.  All of the teachers are willing and eager to help students become their best selves. Mrs. McClung has a dog named Valor who is a Bouvier Des Flanders (ever heard of that?  Google it!).  He's a show dog and has won several awards.  Her favorite treat is a twix or apple pie.

Solange Leonardo - Bilingual Community Liaison 
Provide support to parents, staff, and students in schools with large numbers of students who speak a language other than English.
Ms. Leonardo is very proud of her home country the Dominican Republic, which she says is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean.  She graduated with a Doctorate in Law from the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE).  Ms. Leonardo is here to help students and parents who may need translation services.  She is a mom of a Chattahoochee student and has volunteered with the PTSA which is what prompted her to apply for a job at here at CHS. Her favorite treat is a twix!

Wonna Kang - Bilingual Community Liaison 
Provide support to parents, staff, and students in schools with large numbers of students who speak a language other than English.
Mrs. Kang is from Seoul, South Korea.  She is a graduate of King Sejong University with a degree in Korean literature and linguistics.  She has been part of the Chattahoochee family since 2014.  She has loved being here and working towards the common good. Mrs. Kang also has her scuba diving license and loves to swim.  She is an adventurous spirit! Her favorite treat is creme brulee.

Rita Jensen - Records Coordinator
Serving all students!

Mrs. Jensen is your go-to person for all record needs.  She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and most recently, Highland, Utah.  She graduated from Southern Illinois University in Mass Communications. This is her 6th year at Chattahoochee.  Her kids are graduates of CHS and she served as PTSA President while they were in school.  She loves her Hooch Family!  Her puppy in the picture is Hudson.  He sometimes makes a visit to Chattahoochee for Therapy.  It's amazing to see students' stress levels go down when they encounter Hudson.  He is a lovable friendly addition to our Hooch Family.  Her favorite treat is a Diet Coke w/ splenda.  She doesn't do candy....just caffeine.

Dana Cochran, Professional Assistant
Serving all students!

Mrs. Cochran is the person you see when you walk in the counseling office.  She is here to help and make sure you get your needs met.  She is from Cincinnati, Ohio and most recently lived in Blairsville, Georgia.  As a child she lived in Iceland!  She graduated from The Ohio State University in Communications.  She loves being part of the Hooch Counseling team.  She loves knowing that she can be part of someone's day and make a difference in the life of a student.  Hooch is a special place, unlike any other school and she feels blessed to be part of this great school. Her favorite treat is peach cobbler and chocolate.

Cynthia Butler, Clinic Assistant
Serving all students!

Mrs. Butler is from Atlanta, Georgia.  She graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Recreation.  Coincidentally, she also wants to jump out of a plane when she turns 50.  I guess you could say she likes the outdoors!  She loves being part of the Hooch community and gladly took the position in the clinic when it opened up last school year.  And, we are happy to have her in this role!  Her favorite treat is a twix or butterfinger.

Rosalie (Rose) Moro, Cluster Nurse
Serving all students!

Mrs. Moro is originally from Bristol, Connecticut, but moved to Johns Creek in 1996.  She graduated from Russell Sage College in Troy, NY with a Bachelor's degree in Nursing.  She has been with the school system since 2005!  Being a cluster nurse means working in many different schools and serving a variety of needs.  She loves being part of the Hooch family!  Some fun facts - she has been married for 30 years and has two children, the youngest a Hooch grad!  She also is an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer and RYT 200 Yoga Instructor.  Her favorite snack is anything dark chocolate (Even her snacks are healthy!)  We love Mrs. Moro and all that she contributes to our community.

We hope this gives you some insight into our team.  We welcome you to reach out to us with questions or concerns.  Needs tend to change for each year of high school, but the whole team is here to support and encourage you.  Please check out our website for a wealth of information. 

Chattahoochee High School Counseling Webpage