Romans aims to nurture with mental health initiatives


Kelby Wittenberg

Asst. Head of School Jill Romans

Martha Sanchez, News Editor

Last Tuesday, the SPA Upper School began the first set of a suicide prevention program that will affect the Junior and Freshman classes each year. The program began with the Junior class. The core of the program was a video from the Signs of Suicide (SOS) Prevention Program. The video was followed by one on one meetings with a mental health professional for each member of the Junior class throughout the day.

Jill Romans, the Assistant Head of School for Student Development and Community Engagement, explains the one on one philosophy.

“Meeting with students one-to-one accomplishes two goals: It allows students the opportunity to ask questions or discuss very personal concerns that might not be raised or shared in the group setting. It also allows students to talk with a mental health professional outside of the SPA counseling staff, which could be an important alternative for some students,” she said.

This process will be repeated with the Freshman class this Tuesday. In randomized control studies, the SOS Program has shows a 40-64% drop in self-reported suicide attempts. Romans aims to see this trend emerge within the SPA Community too.

“I hope for our students that there is an increasing awareness about the differences between stress and feelings of sadness, and more significant signs of depression and anxiety,” she said, “I would like students to know that they are not alone and that caring for their emotional well-being is a priority.”

Because of the significant effects the SOS Program has had at other schools, it is set to become a yearly occurrence in the SPA Upper School. The goal is for students to participate in the program every other year, meaning that it will effect freshmen and juniors yearly.

“The reason we chose these grade levels is because the ninth grade is a year when we have many new students. By implementing the program in grades 9 and 11, we are capturing classes at a time that allows most students to be involved,” Romans said.

Romans continued to explain that since 10th grade has wellness classes which already touch on topics of depression and anxiety, they were not chosen to be a part of the program. Romans added that 7th graders participated in the program as well. They were shown a video specifically tailored to middle school students and was an extension of their own wellness unit of study. The faculty is still discussing how to best incorporate ideas of transitioning to college into conversations with the Senior class.

While the SOS Prevention Program was a significant step in advancement of mental health programs at SPA, there are more initiatives to come. Romans and Upper School Counselor Susanna Short are in the process of creating a Mental Health resource page that should be up and running in a few weeks. Another initiative, occurring in late October to early November, calls all students in grades 6-12 to participate in the Independent School Health Check, a survey designed to assess risk factors and discover overall physical health patterns that are present in the community. These measures coincide with Romans’ overall mission. 

“We are expanding our efforts with additional educational measures in ways that coincide with our mission to nurture the whole child – academically, socially, emotionally, behaviorally, and developmentally,” she said.