May is Mental Health Awareness month and Port Byron Mental Health Therapists Maggie Sayre and Stacey Austin-Root are raising awareness to reduce the stigma surrounding behavioral health, as well as highlight the ways mental health affects us all.
Part of the Port Byron CSD mission is support of social-emotional well-being, and the mental health therapist title aids in that mission. One of the main differences between social workers and mental health therapists is that therapists can evaluate and treat individuals with mental health issues.
Sayre works with students in grades seven through 12, and Austin-Root works with students in UPK through sixth grade; they both provide one-on-one and group counseling during the school day. The mental health professionals help students with a variety of issues from test anxiety and managing emotions, to more complex behavioral issues.
“Everyone has struggles,” Sayre said.
She points out that having anxiety or feeling sad is something that we all experience at times. Providing students with skills to address these emotions is key.
“That is something that I have seen my presence has been able to change here at school,” Sayre said. “Kids are not as afraid to say, ‘yeah I have a little anxiety, or I don’t know why I get so worried.’”
Being able to see students daily is helpful says Austin-Root, who is usually at arrival every morning seeing students when they get to school. She says that by doing this she can gauge where a student is at and can check-in with them throughout the day.
“I do a lot of communication with families, and I know if there are issues because I am right here,” Austin-Root said.
Since there is a high demand for mental health services in the surrounding communities, Sayre and Austin-Root are able to break down some of the barriers to care such as transportation, cost and access. They also help link families to outside help as needed.
“We can help bridge that gap,” Sayre said.
For Sayre and Austin-Root, the work they do is rewarding.
“This school is a blessing,” Austin-Root said. “It is a great place to work. The kids are amazing. They’re the reason I come here every day.”
“For me, it is seeing real growth in real time,” Sayre said. “Knowing that I am changing kids’ lives and hearing that and seeing it, that is so intrinsically motivating for me.”