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 Social Worker Is Crucial to Support System

Social Worker Is Crucial to Support System
Good social, emotional and mental health play a crucial role in the success of young women. At Branksome Hall, the importance of mental health is reflected in our Support Services team, which includes a full-time social worker, Joelle Therriault. Ms Therriault works as a resource for the entire Branksome community, offering multifaceted mental health care services by assessing and responding to the social and emotional needs of the student body.

At Branksome Hall, we take this issue so seriously that we have been doing our own research on the subject. Branksome's Sleep Project is a peer-reviewed study of our students' sleep habits and how sleep affects their learning. Our 2010 research was published in the IB Journal of Teaching Practice, in 2013.

Helping Girls Work Through Their Challenges
"Girls love it when I tell them that they are the experts in their own lives, and it is absolutely true," says Ms Therriault. "Each girl carries her own unique set of experiences and it is my role to help her determine how she can work through challenges and become a strong, successful young woman."

Since joining Branksome in 2011, Ms Therriault has had an important impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of the student body, becoming an accessible support resource for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Her full-time presence ensures that students not only have access to consistent support, but that the support they receive is designed specifically for the unique needs of Branksome students.

"Being part of the Branksome community helps me understand the specific pressures that the girls experience and it allows me to delve right into the issues and questions for which they need support," she says. Ms Therriault often works directly with faculty, the school nurse and guidance staff to provide holistic support.

"Branksome has done an excellent job of ensuring that students know where to seek help," explains Ms Therriault. "If a student is struggling with her schoolwork, she can meet with her Learning Strategies teachers. If she's not feeling well, she has access to an on-site nurse. Working in collaboration with guidance counsellors, my role is to provide this same level of support for any emotional or social stresses that our girls might be feeling, so that they receive immediate care and guidance."

The foundation of Ms Therriault's social work philosophy is information and accessibility. At the beginning of each year, she reaches out to the student body to explain her unique role at Branksome and to outline the benefits of seeking assistance for emotional and social issues. During her classroom visits, she defines her role and explains the importance of caring for one's mental health.

"The greatest barrier for a young person who is experiencing distress and wanting to access support is the stigma associated with seeking mental health counselling," says Ms Therriault. "My primary goal is to reach out to all students and let them know that it is both normal and important to be open about their social and emotional needs."

Ms Therriault is also closely involved with many of the mental health workshops, peer support groups and school assemblies that take place at the school.

Here are a few tips to help girls sleep well…

A positive environment
In addition to her counselling role, Ms Therriault works proactively to build a strong, positive social environment for girls as they grow. "I'm committed to improving girls' culture by promoting the strengths and skills girls need to succeed in the world." By focusing on building strong social and emotional foundations at an early age, Branksome students acquire the tools they need to handle anxiety and challenges.

Ms Therriault also highlights the link between good social and emotional health and the IB's focus on cultivating global citizens.

"A healthy girls' environment is one that not only supports young girls in their own lives but also helps them to develop into strong citizens," she says. "I weave my counselling into the broader goals of the IB Program, because they share a similar vision of developing young women who are strong, healthy and socially aware of the world around them."

Many ingredients go into creating a successful education environment for young women. Excellent teachers foster strong academic achievement. Physical education and health care foster energetic and physically healthy students. Ms Therriault's full-time presence at Branksome ensures that these key factors are complemented by the equally important need to cultivate good social, emotional and mental health in all students. The result is a supportive learning environment that responds to the unique needs of girls and young women.

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