The Friends Select Wellness Program, now in its sixth year, engages the school’s community and the general public about mental health and other wellness issues. It is spearheaded by Molly Patterson, Ed.D., the middle and upper school learning specialist, Natan Gottesman, Ph.D., the school’s psychologist, Gabrielle Witkin, M.S.Ed., M.Phil.Ed., LPC, the middle school/upper school counselor, and Chris Singler, upper school director. The program provides information, strategies, support, and resources to students, faculty, and families in the Friends Select community and beyond. Through speaking events, presentations, and participatory activities, the program increases awareness of issues that can affect student learning and well-being, such as mental health challenges, learning styles, peer relationships, social media and internet use, academic pressures, the college application process, and current events.
2021-22 Wellness Program Events
Suicide Prevention and Education: What You Should Know
Wednesday, May 11, 7 p.m. on Zoom
A recording from this Wellness Program event is available here.
As the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to dominate our day-to-day consciousness and practice, the mental health of children and students has become even more of a priority than ever before. According to a recent article published in the New York Times, the mental health crisis among young people has risen to unprecedented levels. The article states that “the U.S. surgeon general warned of a devastating mental health crisis among adolescents…and that numerous hospital and doctor groups have called it a national emergency.”
In schools, it is critical that we work to teach students about mental health and how to seek help. At Friends Select this year, we have been using a program called SOS, Signs of Suicide. The program teaches students about this difficult topic and encourages them to “ACT—Acknowledge, Care, Tell,” if they are worried about a friend or themselves. Parents, guardians, and other members of the school community should be equally informed.
In recognition of the designation of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, Friends Select psychologist Natan Gottesman and school counselor Gabby Witkin will offer a Wellness Program event about the work they have been doing, and inform caregivers and other community members about warning signs, coping skills, and action steps related to suicide prevention. We will also share additional resources about local organizations that you can turn to in a crisis and to deepen your knowledge about this topic. Please join us virtually for this important discussion.
- SOS Resources for Families and Students
- CBS 60 Minutes Segment on Youth Mental Health Crisis
- Resources from CBS, 60 Minutes Story on Youth Mental Health
- New York Times: “What Can Be Learned from Differing Rates of Suicide Among Groups”
- New York Times: “'It's Life or Death': The Mental Health Crisis Among US Teens”
- New York Times: “Experts Warn of Rising Suicide Rates of Black Girls”
Kids and the COVID-19 Vaccine: Addressing Your Questions and Concerns
Wednesday, November 10, 7:30 p.m. on Zoom
The Friends Select School Wellness Program presented this multi-disciplinary panel discussion to address issues regarding COVID-19 safety and the vaccine. This virtual panel discussion, which featured experts in their fields, focused on medical/scientific considerations, the social-emotional impact on children, the realities, dilemmas, and decisions that parents are dealing with, and the impact on diverse communities in the Philadelphia area.
As we’ve entered our third school year impacted by the COVID pandemic, many questions have emerged and realities have continued to shift. Schools have gone from needing to be fully remote, to a hybrid learning model, to a return to full in-person learning. Thankfully, with the availability of the COVID vaccine for adults and subsequently for children 12 and over, it has felt increasingly safe to be in school. Now, with FDA approval of the COVID vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11, many questions and concerns continue to emerge.
About the Panelists
Dr. Susan Coffin
Dr. Susan Coffin is a pediatric infectious diseases physician who works at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She has co-led the COVID Response Program at CHOP and helped launch a school-based testing program in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Project ACE IT (Assisting Child Education through Increased Testing).
Dr. Paul Planet
Paul J. Planet M.D., Ph.D. is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Planet's laboratory at CHOP studies the evolution of infectious disease, especially the spread of antibiotic resistance and the impact of the microbiome on health and disease. Recently, Dr. Planet has been leading a CDC funded effort to track the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to trace the spread of different viral variants in Philadelphia. Dr. Planet received his undergraduate degree from Yale University. He completed his M.D., Ph.D., residency, and fellowship at Columbia University.
Dr. Tina Scott
Dr. Tina Scott is an accomplished psychotherapist, best-selling author, businesswoman, thought leader coach, speaker, and trainer who started her career in the healthcare industry. She received a doctorate degree in healthcare administration and has extensive experience running strategic operations for multiple high-volume healthcare delivery departments. In addition to her years of experience as a senior healthcare executive, Dr. Scott received a master’s degree in community clinical counseling. Dr. Scott has always had a passion for helping people reach their full potential from the inside out. With her passion for psychotherapy and her commitment to business excellence, Dr. Scott merged her two skills and became an organizational psychology practitioner. Her focus became diversity and inclusion, service excellence, human capital, and retention. Dr. Scott is a college professor, an ICF certified coach, an approved clinical supervisor, and a licensed professional counselor specializing in breakups, self-esteem, loss, divorce, and independent living. She offers a highly personalized approach tailored to meet the individual needs of her clients to obtain the personal growth they are striving to achieve.
Kathryn Snyder is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Drexel University. She is a board-certified art therapist and licensed professional counselor with over 21 years of clinical experience working with children, adolescents, and adults. Her private practice, Parent to Child, focuses on art and play therapy for youth with a contextual family and systems framework. Snyder’s research interests include child-centered art therapy, art and art therapy as a primary developmental construct, museum-based art therapy practice, and aesthetics in art therapy. Her dissertation research focuses on art therapy as a support for emergent literacy in high needs preschoolers. She is a research fellow under Dr. Girija Kaimal and has participated in research on art therapy in virtual reality, art therapy with veterans, participatory and visual research tools in public health, and is currently researching art therapy in pediatric cancer care throughout the country. She is a frequent presenter and has numerous publications.
As an ongoing foundational aspect of the program since its inception, Natan, Molly, and Gabby meet with small groups of upper school students throughout the school year for “Wellness Meetings.” Issues such as mental health, academic successes and struggles, stress and stress management, navigation of upper school expectations, and time management are discussed.
The Wellness Program is made possible by support from Jeff Abrams and Margaret Barry, parents of Friends Select alumni.
Past Wellness Program Events
In the 2017-18 school year, the Wellness Program brought Kenneth Ginsburg to speak about his book, Raising Kids to Thrive: Balancing Love with Expectations and Protection with Trust. The program continues to expand, with events intended to increase conversation about the connections between stress, overall mental health and well-being, and academic engagement.
In the 2018-19 school year, the Wellness Program hosted a screening and panel discussion for Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety, an IndieFlix documentary that explores the multilayered effects of anxiety on our society. This film was screened for parents and the wider community, as well as for faculty and students in the upper and middle school. In addition, speakers were brought in from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), who presented information about mental illness to upper school students, with one speaker candidly sharing her own personal experiences with mental illness, treatment, and recovery.
In the 2019-20 school year, the Wellness Program presented adolescent mental health expert Anthony Rostain and family therapist B. Janet Hibbs, authors of The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years. They discussed their recently published book, which is intended to help students and parents cope with the stress and anxiety associated with college.
In the 2020-21 school year, the Wellness Program hosted two virtual events: Youth Suicide Risk: What You Should Know with Dr. Terri Erbacher, and Helping Students Thrive During Pandemic Schooling with Denise Pope, Ph.D.