Social Emotional Learning
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
PTSA Social Emotional Learning Group
Whitman PTSA is excited to announce that we have developed a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Group, led by Nicole Shiraev (6th grade parent) and Amy Conant Wilson (8th grade parent).
Our plan to support the emotional well-being of our Whitman Community
- Offer information on mental health supports and social-emotional education material
- Provide tools that help parents/guardians discuss mental health issues and concerns with their middle schoolers
- Share information about SEL programs at Whitman Middle School
We are looking for ways to partner with WMS guidance counselors, prevention and intervention specialist, the school social worker, clubs, staff groups and the PTSA Board and Equity group to engage with all Whitman families. Please feel free to reach out to the PTSA SEL leaders; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Emotional Group Lessons,
Topics & Resources
During the week of 11/20/23 and the week of 11/27/23 students received an SEL lesson during weekly advisory on coping skills.
Substance Use & Experimentation Although substance use and experimentation warrant year-round attention, the holiday season is often associated with increased festivities and that presents an increased opportunity and/or pressure for people of all ages, including pre-teens and teens, in using or experimenting with substances.
It is important to encourage young people to abstain from all substance use/experimentation. Engaging in open and truthful conversations with your child about the reasons behind substance use and abuse is necessary. Exploring alternative methods to handle stress or negative emotions is essential to minimize the reliance on substances as coping mechanisms or self-medication during periods of elevated stress or low mood.
While some adults believe that supervised alcohol use can prevent misuse and promote modeling moderation, there is a lack of evidence supporting this belief, and there are studies that suggest the opposite is true. For further insights, refer to the 2011 post from the University of Washington School of Social Work on how adult supervised drinking with young teens may result in increased unsupervised alcohol use and harmful consequences. Substances susceptible to use/abuse across all age groups, including youth, includes tobacco and vaping/e-cigarette products, alcohol, marijuana, illegal street drugs, over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications (their own or someone else’s).
According to the American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry, a more impactful strategy for reducing the risk of a young person developing a substance use disorder and avoiding the negative physical and mental health consequences involves engaging the young person in open and honest conversations about (1) the natural curiosity surrounding substance use; (2) the reasons people use/misuse substances, and (3) adopting healthy strategies to cope with stress, low mood, depression, anger, or anxiety.
Furthermore, emphasize the importance of critical thinking skills, provide specific scripts to help a young person confidently resist the pressure to use substances, and introduce other strategies to support your child in staying sober even when there may be pressure from a variety of sources to use substances. Incorporating role-playing and regular practice of refusal strategies as well as practicing healthy coping mechanisms in all situations can increase the likelihood that such skills will be used when the need arises. Enlist any and all trusted and caring adults in a young person’s life to support this messaging and encourage adults to model responsible behavior.
Many of the same strategies that support people in abstaining from self-harming behavior or to abstain from acting on thoughts of suicide can also be highly effective in managing distress that leads to substance use.
For more on such healthy coping skills to manage cravings to use visit Now Matters Now
If you suspect your child is struggling with a substance use problem you can consult with their primary care physician, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: at 1-800-662-HELP(4357), National Suicide and Crisis Line at 988. SAMHSA National Helpline and Other Resources and the National Suicide and Crisis Line Website
You can also reach out to our Whitman Counselors, Social Worker and the School Nurse.
Whitman MS Counselors
- Cheryl Farley; email@example.com
- Leti Bravo; firstname.lastname@example.org
WMS Social Worker
- Mackenzie Fee; email@example.com
- Kathleen McIntosh; firstname.lastname@example.org
Native American Heritage Awareness Month
On November 15, 2023, students had an advisory lesson on Native American Heritage Month. Ms. LaFrance invited her Mother, a tribal leader Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, led a PowerPoint presentation that can be found in your student’s Schoology Library folder. Try and ask your students what they learned this week, and we are grateful to Ms LaFrance for sharing her family and her heritage with our students!
While we move closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, it is an opportunity to remember the historical origins of the modern Thanksgiving holiday. We acknowledge this day may bring some mixed thoughts and feelings for Native American people. For more information on the origins of Thanksgiving please visit: Wampanoag Indian Thanksgiving Story and to learn more about the Wampanoag tribe please visit Plimoth Patuxet Museums: Who are the Wampanoag?
We wish to acknowledge the Indian tradition of celebrating Diwali (November 10, 2023 through November 15, 2023) and wish those celebrating a Happy Diwali. To learn more about the holiday and traditions surrounding it please visit Diwali-Festival of Lights.
Coping with Stress During the Holidays
Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season can be an exciting and fun time for some, but for many, it can also be a stressful time. This can mean a rise in anxiety, a drop in mood or a sad or depressed mood for any number of reasons. Some ways to cope with stress, as based in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and positive psychology frameworks, during this time of year might include:
- Prioritizing good self-care (avoiding over-eating or under-eating, prioritizing good sleep, making time for movement/exercise, limiting screen time, scheduling pleasant events, and stay socially connected)
- For those who know they tend to struggle feeling lonely or socially isolated, look ahead and make a plan to connect with friends, loved ones, or trust members of your community).
- Look for ways to volunteer to boost your mood
- Normalize challenges you experience during the holiday season (remind yourself you are not alone and many experience this year as a challenging time) and avoid comparing yourself to others
- Avoid use, abuse, and experimentation of substances
- Write down three things each night that went well that day as this supports improving mood, reducing anxiety, supporting good sleep, and starting the next day off on the right foot.
- And as always, if you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, self-harm, substance use, or any other mental health emergency call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 (available for free 24/7 every day of the year including weekends and holidays).
SEL Advisory Lesson Week of Nov 6
In honor of Veterans Day, students will be attending a Veterans Day presentation during advisory this week.
Whitman Middle School PTSA wishes to acknowledge the veterans within the school community and in our larger community and thank you for your service. If you or a loved one who is a veteran in need of support please visit Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Counseling and Wellness Programs. In some instances, services may be available to dependent family members as well. Using the link above scroll to Benefits for Veteran/Military Spouses and Family Members on the left hand side of the page.
Veterans struggling with suicidal ideation can call the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 and press 1 to be directed to the Veterans Crisis Hotline.
Support our LGTBQ+ Students and Community
National Coming Out Day was on October 11, 2023 this year. We also want to acknowledge Transgender Awareness Week: November 13-19 2023 and Transgender Day of Remembrance: November 20, 2023.
As we acknowledge these dates it is important to remember that our LGBTQ+ community is often at significantly higher risk of anxiety, depression, suicide, and substance use disorders in large part to the lack of acceptance many have experienced within society at large. We can all become allies by showing support, acceptance, and creating an inclusive environment for all regardless of sexual identity or gender identity.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Youth include:
- The Trevor Project –For free 24/7 support for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing suicidal ideation or other mental health crisis call The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text them at 678-678
- It Gets Better Project
- Human Rights Campaign
- Free Mom Hugs
- 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline – Call or text 988 for free and confidential support
Anyone, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, struggling with suicide, self-harm or other mental health crisis (including problems with substances) may call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988.
SPS School Climate Survey
This week students will participate in the fall Seattle Public Schools School Climate Survey. This results of the survey support leadership in understanding how students feel about their school environment and therefore tell leadership what is working, areas that have improved over time, and areas that still need to be improved to provide a socially-emotionally safe and positive environment for all. When students’ academic environment feels positive, socially-emotionally safe for all this allows all students to be at their best and therefore do their best academically.
October is Depression Awareness Month
Depression-experiencing low, blue, or sad mood more days than not-is a treatable condition that may be caused by a range of triggers to include a biological or genetic predisposition to depression or difficult life events. Other signs and symptoms may include changes in appetite, changes in sleep, isolating from friends and family, fatigue, decreased interest in activities usually enjoyed, and/or unexplained physical symptoms (headaches, pain, stomach aches).
For information on healthy coping strategies please visit: 5 Ways to Help Yourself Through Depression
For parents concerned their student is struggling with depression (or any issue affecting their student’s mental health) please visit: Talking to Adolescents and Teens: Starting the Conversation
Additionally, with winter coming and our clocks falling back soon, some may also be concerned about seasonal affective depression (depression associated with less exposure to natural light due to change of seasons). Bright light therapy–use of a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light–is sometimes helpful. Before purchasing one, speak with your student’s medical provider to confirm that there are no contraindications for such an intervention and how to choose an effective one as there are a range of products available and not all are equal.
Sleep: It’s Time to Fall Back
As we all know it is that time of year again and we will fall back to standard time on November 5, 2023. For many of us the transition to standard time signals is a source of anxiety or a dip in our mood due to the increased time spent in darkness.
To help your student adjust to the clocks falling back (and later for when they may need help to adjust again to daylight savings time) consider the following strategies from The Sleep Foundation
November is Native American Heritage Month
In honor of Native American Heritage Month we wish to acknowledge that the indigenous populations of the US have suffered years of oppressive policies and marginalization. As a result, indigenous people of the US are at higher risk of mental health challenges. And though many evidence based practices used in traditional psychotherapy and western medicine traditions may be effective, other practices and interventions that are culturally sensitive are also often important to consider utilizing.
If you are a member of the Native American Community seeking mental health support you may find the following resources helpful.
In our post last week, we noted that 6th grade students would be learning about disability awareness during an advisory lesson (week 10/16/23). If you are a parent working to navigate Special Education Resources to ensure your student has the support they need please view the Special Education Guide to Seattle Public Schools (translated in 10 different languages). This guide can help families understand how to access accommodations for their students with a 504 plan or with an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Also please be aware that our Whitman MS PTSA has both an Equity Committee with a contact email; email@example.com as well as a Special Education Liaison; Carrie Pluger; firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have specific questions/concerns on these topics, representatives from these committees may be able to help you or support voicing your concerns or needs to our school and district leadership. We continue to welcome all into the PTSA and yet wish to remind parents that you do not need to be a member to utilize the support offered by the PTSA to assist you in getting your students’ needs met.
Additional information to support disability awareness and for resources to support parenting here:
- Center for Parent Information and Resources to Support Children with Disabilities
- The Arc of Washington State
- Washington State Resources for Parent of Children and Youth With Disabilities
It is important to support everyone with differing abilities and remember we all have inherent worth and value and deserve friendship and a supportive and inclusive environment. Speak with your student about how they can support their peers or others in their community in feeling welcomed and included. Some steps simply include saying hi in the hallways or offering help if they see a fellow peer could use a hand or how we can alter an activity to make sure we can all enjoy a game/activity in the same way we could and should do with all our peers!
Depression Awareness Month:
Depression is, experiencing a persistently low, blue, sad, or irritable/angry mood for more days than not. It can be triggered by many causes and often some combination of biological or genetic predisposition and life events contribute to someone experiencing depression. It is a condition that often requires some form of treatment and speaking with your student’s doctor or speaking with a member of your school’s counseling team is often a good start to determine next steps for obtaining treatment.
There are things you can do to support management of symptoms as you wait to start treatment, and you can search previous posts for information covered to date on this topic. This week we will highlight strategies for improving self-esteem—confidence in one’s abilities or own self-worth.
When we do not feel confident inside, when we have negative internal self-talk, or perceive we are not enough as we are, this can trigger us to experience low self-esteem. This negative view of oneself occurring on a regular/daily basis can develop into depression. The good news is we can work to improve our self-esteem by using the strategies presented below: “Strategies To Build Healthy Self-Esteem (McGill University).”
Strategies To Build Healthy Self-Esteem
Students, just like many people in society, struggle with self-esteem issues on a daily basis, since our self-esteem can affect almost everything we do. Self-esteem is the opinion we develop about ourselves in terms of our ability to meet the many challenges of life, and achieve happiness and success. Self-esteem relates to so many areas of our life that we can have high self-esteem in one aspect, and low self-esteem in another. High self-esteem also makes us somewhat “immune” to psychological distress and therefore, we can’t have too much of it. Some people believe that if our self-esteem is too high we will become arrogant, but this is not the case. With true self-esteem comes humility. The following describes common characteristics of people with high and low self-esteem.
People with high self-esteem tend to:
- Love themselves, and feel worthy of love by others.
- Act in an independent fashion.
- Achieve greater success in life.
- Assume responsibility for their lives, and their choices.
- Take more risks in life.
- Be more creative artistically, and as problem solvers.
- Feel proud of their accomplishments.
- Accept who they are, flaws and all.
- Not be self-centered or egotistical.
- Deal with problems using healthy coping strategies.
- Tolerate greater levels of frustration.
- Be excited by the future, and meet it with a sense of optimism.
On the other hand, people with low self-esteem tend to:
- Feel unworthy of love and respect.
- Avoid attempting new activities for fear of failure.
- Constantly fear rejection.
- Put down their own abilities and skills.
- Achieve less success in life (or become over-achievers).
- Be passive in their interactions with others.
- Blame others for their problems and mistakes.
- Constantly seek out the approval of others.
- Have poorly defined self-identities, and instead change to fit in to the situation.
- Be anxious and insecure around others.
- Use addictive behaviors (i.e., drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling, smoking,
- shopping, work, etc.) to cope with their painful feelings.
- Be filled with many kinds of fears, particularly about the future.
Given all the potential benefits of having higher self-esteem, the question then becomes can we do anything to raise it and, if so, how? The answer to the first question is that self-esteem is indeed affected by the daily choices we make, and by the actions we take.
The following strategies can help you raise your self-esteem:
- Develop consistent self-care activities
- Just as how others treated us in the past impacted significantly on our self- esteem, how we treat ourselves everyday influences how we value ourselves. Self-care includes such things as: eating a healthy diet, getting optimal amounts of sleep, doing regular exercise, practicing good hygiene, taking time to do things you enjoy, wearing clothes that you really like, treating yourself well each day, and making your living space somewhere you really enjoy to be. Feeling out of shape, exhausted, unattractive, and unhappy leaves us very vulnerable to feelings of insecurity.
- Keep a record of all of your accomplishments
- Accumulate all of your accomplishments and put them in a scrapbook, file, drawer, chest or room. This may include: trophies, awards, certificates, transcripts, diplomas, degrees, cards of appreciation, or other documents which in some way recognize you. Remember also, you don’t need to focus on just your monumental accomplishments, but you can keep a list of more minor victories. Then spend some time at least once a week looking at these accomplishments and congratulating yourself for this success.
- Develop a list of your strengths or positive qualities
- Write out a list of all the strengths you possess and then add to it as you recognize new ones. Then post this list on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or other visible location to remind yourself of these strengths and qualities.
- Ask for feedback from people who know and appreciate you
- One of the best ways to improve your self image is to get honest and accurate feedback from people who know and value you. As well, once you ask for the feedback, fight the urge to discount it, since this is a common response for anyone who isn’t used to positive feedback. Most people would be willing to take this time with you. Also don’t forget to write down the feedback, so you can refer back to it at times you are struggling.
- Indulge yourself in activities you enjoy
- By indulging yourself, you are communicating to yourself that you deserve to be treated well. This could include anything you love doing like: reading, going to a movie, seeing a friend, having a nap, playing with a pet, going for a walk, riding a bike or getting a massage. The list is endless, depending on what you enjoy.
- Quit comparing yourself to others
- Comparing yourself to others might help your self-esteem, if you in fact compare yourself to people who are less skilled or talented than you are. However, most people who struggle with self-esteem issues do the opposite and compare themselves to others who excel in the areas they value, and therefore end up feeling defeated. Instead, compare yourself to yourself and look for the progress you have made in your pursuit of competence and success.
- Fill your life with healthy, positive and supportive people
- Leave or distance yourself from any relationship that does not support your healthy sense of self, particularly with people who are highly negative and unsupportive. It is difficult to support your own sense of self when others are tearing it down.
- Set yourself up for success
- Seek out situations and opportunities where you have a high probability of success. However, make sure that some of these situations test your abilities to give yourself a true sense of accomplishment. When you are successful, celebrate your success rather than simply moving on to another challenge.
- Don’t dwell on your weaknesses
- Accept the fact that every human being has weaknesses and that they are inevitable. Just look around you and you will easily discover this. It’s not just you. No matter how much you try to eliminate your weaknesses, they will exist, so instead accept them. At least accept most of them and if you really feel motivated to do so, isolate a few and work on them if they are indeed changeable.
- Let go of perfectionism
- Feeling like you need to be perfect robs you of the opportunity to appreciate your daily accomplishments and achievements if they are not up to your unrealistic expectations. If the only time you feel good about yourself is when you have a perfect performance, this will be rare. You have the ability to lower your expectations for yourself and by doing so, your self-esteem can soar. View mistakes as simply opportunities to learn, not a reason to beat yourself up.
- Replace negative self-talk with positive self-statements
- What we tell ourselves day after day is what we come to believe. This being the case, we need to create a new, more positive script for ourselves. Stop listening to your inner critical voice and if you like, even give your critical voice a name so that you can begin to see it as something separate from yourself. Foster a new voice which is more positive, self-accepting and supportive.
- Develop and use daily affirmations
- Daily affirmations are self-statements that you have usually written down and can repeat to yourself on a daily basis. Some typical self-esteem building affirmations include:
- Despite my weaknesses, I accept myself.
- I accept my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and values, even if they are different than other people’s.
- I do not have to be perfect to love and appreciate myself, or be loved and appreciated by others.
- I am successful in many aspects of my life and need to remind myself to focus on these.
- I am a unique individual and will be appreciated by others for this.
- Mistakes are simply a unique opportunity to learn; I can’t be afraid of them.
- I have the power to forgive myself for past mistakes.
- I am worthy of other’s respect.
- I am responsible for my own choices and have an obligation to myself to fulfill my needs (when my needs are fulfilled, I will best be able to help others).
- I have a right to stand up for my rights, beliefs, values, opinions and feelings and need to do so in a very assertive manner.
- I am the only person who can choose my purposes and goals in life; no one else can decide my future.
- I need to strive for moral consistency, practice what I preach, keep my promises and honor my commitments.
- I am able to achieve the basic challenges of life.
- If these affirmations do not fit you, sit down and write out what you think you need to hear from yourself to build your sense of self.
- Daily affirmations are self-statements that you have usually written down and can repeat to yourself on a daily basis. Some typical self-esteem building affirmations include:
- Be aware of your own needs and meet them
- To the degree that we are aware of our needs and meet them, we are communicating to ourselves that we are valuable. By disregarding our needs, we are saying to ourselves that we don’t matter and other people will see this as well, and potentially take advantage of us. When our needs are being met, we are healthy, both on a physical and emotional level.
- Be assertive with the people in your life
- Assertiveness builds self-esteem because it communicates back to yourself that your needs, values and beliefs are important. This means expressing your feelings in a way that is open and honest, but still respects the other person. Each time you are assertive, your self-esteem grows a little bit.
- Live your life with purpose and goals
- Setting and achieving goals builds self-esteem. Living a life that is aimless and purposeless gives no sense of achievement, which does not build your sense of self. As well, do not let others, such as your parents, establish your goals and purpose in life. They will rarely fit for you and will ultimately lead to unhappiness and failure. You need to set a goal, develop a plan of action, implement the plan, and evaluate your success.
- Take responsibility for your life and your choices
- Too often in today’s world, people, particularly students, have not learned to take responsibility for their lives and their choices, and end up relying on their parents to continue to be responsible for many aspects of their existence. These could be related to financial issues, vocational direction, life happiness and life choices, to mention a few. Self- responsibility for these matters can be difficult at first, but when achieved, builds our sense of self.
- Determine what you can change and what you can not
- If your discontentment with yourself relates to aspects of yourself that you can change, then develop a plan for improvement and execute it. If instead it is related to something you can not change (i.e., such as your age, height, intelligence, family background, etc.), then you need to develop a sense of acceptance. Put your energy where it will be most likely to pay off.
- Make a decision to help others
- Helping others, whether it is through your job, by volunteering, or through donating, fills us with a sense of pride and accomplishment. This accomplishment in turn, feeds our positive sense of self.
- Live your life consciously
- To cope with feelings or events, many people live their lives in denial on many levels. Unfortunately, we can not effectively deal with what we are not conscious of, and then we give ourselves a reason to beat ourselves up when issues are not resolved. By being conscious of everything that is happening, in both our inner world and the outer world, we can more effectively deal with things, which in turn builds self-esteem.
- Strive for moral consistency
- What this means is that we need to make choices that are consistent with our values and moral code. Each time we make a choice which is inconsistent with our values, our self-esteem takes a beating. This includes honoring our commitments, keeping our promises and practicing what we preach.
- Meet age related developmental tasks
- To feel good about yourself as a young adult, you need to take on and meet many developmental tasks, including:
- Developing your individual identity and autonomy.
- Becoming independent from your family.
- Learning to manage basic life tasks (i.e., financial, household, school, work, etc.)
- Developing healthy intimate relationships.
- Establishing a variety of social networks.
- Shifting your relationship with your parents from child/adult to adult/adult.
- To feel good about yourself as a young adult, you need to take on and meet many developmental tasks, including:
- Reward your achievements
- Too often we focus on our failures and ignore our achievements. Instead, find a way to celebrate or reward what you have accomplished by: giving yourself a break, treating yourself with your favorite food, going on a holiday, doing one of your favorite activities, allowing yourself time to relax, spending time with a friend or verbally complimenting yourself, to mention a few ideas.
Written by Dr. Kim Maertz Mental Health Centre University of Albert
Research has also shown that when we give ourselves cheerleading statements silently (or out loud when the situation permits), it helps build our self-esteem. For example, if the author of this entry wanted to feel more confident about an upcoming math test I might say, “Nicole you’ve got this! Nicole you have studied and prepared for the exam to the best of your ability. Nicole you are enough as you are and your job is to simply do the best you can on the test.” For more on how to do this and why it works read Silent Third Person Self-Talk Facilitates Emotion Regulation. For those who wish to read the research paper itself you can find it at Full Research Paper On Positive Self-Talk in Third Person.
Additionally, your student can help improve their self-esteem and confidence in just a couple of minutes by learning to adapt power postures such as the superman/wonder woman pose. Check out the videos by: social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, PhD for more information.
Week of October 16
Grades 7 & 8 will attend the first ASB assembly of the year during Wednesday’s advisory/SEL lesson time. Grade 6 will receive information on disability awareness.
Week of October 25
Grade 6 will attend their first ASB assembly of the year. And Grades 7 & 8 students will be attending a Veterans’ Day Art Project during this time.
Handouts or other lesson materials used during advisory may be found in your student’s Schoology account through the Library. Be aware that there may be a lag time between when lessons occur and such information is posted/archived.
Israel-Hamas War & School Approved Resources
“Our hearts are with everyone impacted by the Israel-Palestine crisis, and we are concerned for the safety of everyone there, as we are for the mental health and well-being of their families and everyone watching the crisis unfold. The attacks have brought about emotions including fear, confusion, sadness and anger, for both adults and children. Our association remains committed to supporting all families during this difficult time.” Yvonne Johnson, National PTA President.
In response to the war between Israel and Hamas, we want to acknowledge that students and their families in our district may be affected in a variety of ways by this tragic and ongoing event. Seattle Public Schools, to include Whitman Middle School, is committed to providing an academic environment that is safe–both physically and psychologically–for all students. We encourage parents to review the following resources for support and guidance in talking to your children about the conflict itself and about topics such as antisemitism and Islamophobia.
For Middle School Students
- Resilience in a Time of War: Tips for Parents and Teachers of Middle School Children: The American Psychological Association provides tips and strategies for parents and teachers of middle school-aged children.
Trauma-Informed Resources for School Systems
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides resources that can be filtered by topic, keyword, and audience with a focus on how adults can identify traumatic responses in young people and how to support them.
For Military Families
- The San Diego County Office of Education creates and curates resources to support military families and students and schools that serve military children.
October is Depression Awareness Month
Depression and Sleep Connection
Depression and Sleep Connection: Depression, a persistent low, blue, sad, or irritable mood lasting more often than not for several days at a time, is often associated with feelings of fatigue and low energy and sleep disturbance. One way to help prevent or build resiliency against depression and one way to often help reduce symptoms and work to improve mood if already depressed is to pay close attention to our sleep habits.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children aged 6-12 should aim for 9-12 hours of sleep per 24 hours and teenagers aged 13 to 18 years old should receive 8-10 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Insufficient sleep alone can trigger the onset of depression ( Johns Hopkins Medicine: Depression and Sleep-Understanding the Connection ). Insufficient sleep also makes it harder for students to be alert and at their best when at school or other activities which can lead to other challenges that may trigger depression as well. In most cases, if you suspect your child isn’t getting enough sleep, it can be easily improved through behavior change alone.
For more information on tips/strategies to support improved sleep visit:
- CDC Healthy Schools: Sleep in Middle and High School Students
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Teenagers and Sleep
In some instances, your child may need more support to assist them in getting good quality sleep. Before you consider any medication or supplements, contact your child’s doctor to discuss the issue. In some cases, a doctor may recommend your child speak with a sleep specialist or may recommend your child meet with a cognitive-behavior therapist who provides cognitive-behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).
Getting the right intervention can support mood improvement, improved academic performance, good health overall and reduce dependence on medication or certain supplements for sleep. More information available; Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)
Social Emotional Learning Lessons
Students completed the Healthy Youth Survey in grades 6th and 8th the week of October 9, 2023 which took the place of the SEL lesson this week.
Depression Awareness Month
Sad or Even Angry Mood
Depression, a persistently low/sad or even angry mood, persisting more often than not for several days, and can be caused by many factors. However, depression can be attributed to feeling lonely, socially isolated, or lacking sufficient social connection. As parents we can help our children feel socially connected by prioritizing our children’s needs to stay in contact with friends, family, or other members of the community. Not all of us are naturally skilled at making friends or keeping friends. Some of us may need extra help with learning how to make and maintain friendships or to learn how to feel more confident in the social connections we do have.
For more information on how to help your middle schooler (or even
yourself) in feeling socially connected visit the resources below:
Social Emotional Learning Lessons
Social emotional learning (SEL) occurs for students every Wednesday. Topics covered in the month of September include The Whitman Way, which included a discussion on applying the Whitman Way to responsible electronic device use (Digital Citizenship Agreement). Additionally, the students celebrated Hispanic/LatinX Heritage Month. For additional resources to support discussion on establishing healthy relationships with electronic devices visit check out a resource supported by The National PTA like The Smart Talk.
Depression Awareness Month
Depression symptoms can vary from person-to-person and may look or be described differently based on someone’s age, gender, or ethnic/racial background. Some symptoms of depression include: irritable/sad mood or feeling blue lasting more days than not for several days or weeks, loss of interest or enjoyment in activities previously enjoyed, fatigue, withdrawing from friends/family, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, thoughts of self-harm and/or thoughts of suicide. In some cases, a person with depression may report physical symptoms of feeling unwell instead of psychological symptoms.
We still don’t fully understand why some people experience depression and others do not. Like many other health problems it does appear to run in the family, be linked to changes in hormones or other body chemistry changes that one might be experiencing, or be a way some of us seem to react under certain stressful conditions. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to know that help is available and that you don’t put off or delay seeking help. With help you can learn to manage symptoms effectively and get back to enjoying your life!
Resources to assist you in conducting an at-home depression screening and healthy coping strategies can be found and downloaded at (available in both English and Spanish) are the National PTSA Healthy Minds Resources: Depression
If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide or any other mental health crisis call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 or text “HOME” to the National Crisis Text Line at 741741 or call 911. For skills to support staying safe in a crisis until you can get to help visit Now Matters Now
Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Services for Middle School Students (SBIRT)
Seattle Public Schools is committed to supporting students’ academic, physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The SBIRT program helps to identify, reduce, and prevent adolescent substance use and to support students’ mental health and personal safety. It provides personalized feedback about health behaviors and helps to determine whether a student may need additional support. Screening is conducted by Whitman’s Intervention Prevention Specialist, Ms. Kerri Anderson at email@example.com. Screening is given to all 7th and 8th graders. The screening is confidential and allows Whitman counseling and support team to support those identified at risk and provide appropriate support and referrals. This supports us in further developing a healthy academic environment for all.
At Whitman Middle School Mental Health Matters
The Whitman Way
Last week students met for their weekly social-emotional learning lesson where they learned about The Whitman Way, a social contract between the administration, staff, students, and families.
The Whitman Way is focused on three behavior goals:
- Being Safe
- Being Respectful
- Being Responsible.
We encourage you to have a brief conversation as a family to discuss how your student(s) and how you as a family can participate in modeling the Whitman Way to support us in building a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all.
Mental Health and the Hispanic/LatinX Community
September is Hispanic/LatinX Heritage month. As we celebrate Hispanic and LatinX culture and heritage, we believe it is important to recognize that we have a growing population of Hispanic and LatinX people throughout the US. Mental health problems affect people of all backgrounds, but differences in lived experiences, how symptoms are expressed to treating providers and/or community supports, and differences in cultural attitudes towards seeking mental health along with available access to culturally sensitive/bilingual providers can make accessing care more challenging.
If you or a loved one are a member of the Hispanic/LatinX community and are in need of emergency mental health support call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988. If you are seeking mental health counseling services for yourself or a loved one you can find culturally sensitive/bilingual therapists by visiting the therapist search site Therapy for LatinX.
*Prospective patients should take steps to be informed consumers and determine for themselves if a provider is the right fit for them. The Whitman PTSA cannot officially endorse any specific provider or their practice.
National Suicide Prevention Month
Suicide can be prevented. If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide, call or text the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
For many struggling with thoughts of suicide, the purpose of such thoughts is a form of coping with intense emotional and/or physical pain. We cannot stop such thoughts unless we have alternative coping strategies. We may also feel socially isolated and feel we are the only ones going through such pain. Reducing social isolation and talking about our suicidal thoughts may reduce our risk for acting on such thoughts.
If you or a loved one needs healthy coping skills now to stay safe and/or needs to hear how others stopped their suicidal thoughts and found hope, joy, and purpose visit Now Matters Now (The founder and CEO of Now Matters Now is Ursula Whiteside, PhD. She is a clinical psychologist and is also a clinical faculty member at University of Washington. Her work focuses largely on suicide intervention and prevention.).
If you have questions/concerns or feedback for the Whitman Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Committee please contact Amy Conant-Wilson (8th grade parent) or Nicole Shiraev (6th grade parent) at firstname.lastname@example.org .
WMS PTSA Social Emotional Learning Group
Whitman MS PTSA is excited to announce that we have developed a Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) Group. It is currently led by Nicole Shiraev (6th gr. parent) and Amy Conant Wilson (8th gr. parent).
The SEL PTSA group is here to support the emotional well-being of our Whitman Middle School Community by offering information on mental health supports and social-emotional education materials. To do this we are partnering with Whitman Middle School’s guidance counselors, prevention and intervention specialist, and the school social worker.
Finally, we plan to partner with student clubs, staff groups, and the PTSA Equity group as well as the PTSA Board to engage with all Whitman families.
Please feel free to reach out to the PTSA SEL leads at email@example.com.