A mental health response team is joining the faculty of Woodson High School to provide an extra layer of support for students, the school announced last Friday.
Two students from the school died by suicide within two days in late February, bringing to six the number student suicides at Woodson since 2011. The response team represents the latest piece of an ongoing push to strengthen mental health resources at Woodson and across the Fairfax County school system.
Assistant superintendent Douglas Tyson, who oversees Woodson, sent a letter to the school community on April 26 introducing the four-person team. The team will work at Woodson full-time through the end of the school year, fortifying to the school’s suicide prevention and outreach efforts.
“Since the tragic incidents occurred, we as a system have been in a continual planning process for how we can best support the faculty and students at the school,” Tyson said in an interview. “We are working to provide all the resources they need.”
The team members include Dan Meier, a former guidance counselor who retired as principal of Robinson Secondary School last year, and John Todd, a school psychologist and former coordinator of psychological services for FCPS. School counselor Peggy Perry and school psychologist Eileen Goldschmidt round out the group.
Three of the team members, Todd, Perry and Goldschmidt, are already in place, and Meier will join them by the end of next week, Tyson said.
The response team will work in tandem with the counselors and psychologists already at the school to identify teens who are struggling and provide extra support “on the ground” for students, Tyson said.
“Our goal was not to do something to the school but to work alongside the school,” Tyson said. “We’re augmenting what is already in place to meet the mental, social and emotional needs of the students.”
Meier, Todd, Perry and Goldschmidt are also tasked with the mission of building more connections between students, faculty, administrators and mental health professionals, weaving a tighter web to catch teens who may be at risk for self-harm.
And while this team is only scheduled to remain at Woodson through the end of the year, the larger work of improving the health resources at Woodson and throughout the county, will continue, Tyson said.
“This is not some quick Band-Aid we’re coming in to apply,” Tyson said. “We are present for the long-term, and we want to find solutions and continue to get stronger.”
Another building block toward this goal will be the teen mental health summit the school district is hosting on May 17. Students and parents are encouraged to attend the event at Hayfield Secondary School, which will run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The summit centers on how teens can deal with stress and build resiliency, or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations, and will serve not only as a venue to provide information and resources but also as a forum for discussion.
“That is a day that is going to be a big milestone as we move forward to address the issues at Woodson and really throughout the division,” Tyson said.