BISD Highlights New 'Spaces and Places' for Mental Health
Article contributions by: Sara Musgrove
October is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Brownwood ISD (BISD) Mental Health program continues to shine a light on the importance of providing care for mental and behavioral struggles in students. Mental health affects emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how people think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how students, in particular, handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Strong mental health influences every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
The BISD Mental Health program has continued to grow, with several notable achievements presented in their report at the October BISD Board of Trustees meeting. Five separate BISD schools won the CREST award for exemplary counseling programming last year, and this year, collaborations with Howard Payne University have led to the first social work intern. In addition, three BISD counselors are working towards completion of the required training and hours to complete their LPC licenses under the supervision of BISD Mental Health Coordinator and Autism Grant Director Danielle Howard. Howard recently noted new intentional spaces for counseling at all locations, which include a “Counseling Corner” at Brownwood Middle School, a Brownwood High School coffee shop (Coffee with Counselors), and a newly customized Mobile Unit to assist with counseling and mental health services for students across the district.
The new mobile unit provides consistency for students to meet with counselors. “As a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist, I often rely on tools such as games, art supplies, and toys to communicate with children in ways that make sense to them,” said Howard. “We work on connection and relationship to help build positive self-image, behavior, mental health, and healthy choices.”
The elementary schools offer limited space for private counseling work, and counselors often must use any available room, such as a copy room or office, to meet with students. “It was our hope that if we had a consistent setup where the kids could predict the environment and the tools available, progress would be faster and more efficient,” Howard said. “When students can predict the place and the way services are delivered, it builds trust and safety, and progress can be made more quickly, with more intention. They never have to wonder where we will be meeting. We can pick up right where we left off the last time I saw them, and that makes all the difference in the world.”
Consistency and safety are a priority for BISD counselors, ensuring students feel comfortable in order to grow. The mobile unit itself serves as a reliable office, an office-on-wheels, in which students feel at home. “We were able to create a comfortable room, adding wood floors, shelving, a table, two bench seats, art supplies, toys, games, and a sand tray inside,” Howard said. “The books are the same that our elementary school counselors have, and I communicate daily with them to help build upon the social and emotional education students are already receiving at their schools. There is also a visual baby monitor, without sound, that is placed in the main offices so we may ensure the safety of both myself and our students while maintaining the privacy of conversation.”
Howard expressed her thanks to several local donors for the new mobile counseling space. Multiple community members and business sponsors such as Carol Gilbreath, Heart of Texas Flooring, Bostick’s Auto and Truck Sales, KANAR RV, and Michael Fulton donated funding, time, and materials.
At a time when mental health struggles nationwide are at an all-time high, BISD continues to support the development of innovative programs and services that meet the needs of children. The BISD Mental Health team has presented multiple times throughout the state and on two occasions to a national audience to present the effectiveness of implementing mental health programming in a small town district.
“I would like to thank our Board of Trustees and Superintendents for taking the time to listen with an open mind to out-of-the-box ideas and support for the mental health program,” Howard said. “We work ‘For the Heart of the Lion, and the Pride of Brownwood.’”
Above: BMS Counseling Corner
Above: BHS Coffee Shop for coffee with counselors.