Netflix has officially announced a release date for its highly controversial “13 Reasons Why” – May 18 the show will hit Netflix queues and be available to watch. We want to take this opportunity to share resources if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide. These resources are recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) as well as our own Counseling Psychology Department and Child, Family, and School Psychology Department.

Additionally, NASP has crafted a statement and guidance for the upcoming season. Its general recommendations include:

  • Provide the guidance developed by NASP for 13 Reasons Why, Season 1 to parents and educators.
  • Encourage parents to watch the series with their child; children and youth who view this series may need supportive adults to help process it. Help students articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content. The difficult issues portrayed do occur in schools and communities, and it is important for adults to listen, take adolescents’ concerns seriously, and be willing to offer to help.
  • Caution against binge watching, as doing so with intense content, particularly in isolation, can be associated with increased mental health concerns.
  • Reinforce that school-employed mental health professionals such as school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are available to help.
  • Make sure parents, teachers, and students are aware of suicide risk warning signsAlways take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students.
  • Reinforcing resiliency and protective factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth.

If you are an educator and want more information about our alumna-designed suicide risk assessment app, click here.

Hayat Abu-Ghazaleh, a first year Master’s student in the Counseling Psychology program here at the Morgridge Collection of Education (MCE), is a true advocate for social justice and equity. She shows her commitment to these tenets through her studies and clinical work in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling, through her volunteerism with refugee groups, and through her participation in the Vagina Monologues here at the University of Denver, which promotes representation and equity across gender boundaries.

Hayat was born and raised in Saudi Arabia with her family, and noticed that there was a greater need for mental health services and care in her community than was available, which prompted her interest in the fields of psychology and counseling. In Spring 2016 Hayat complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at American University in Washington D.C., then decided she wanted to further her knowledge and the impact she could make upon the field of mental health through our MA program in Counseling Psychology. After graduation, she is considering a move back to Saudi Arabia so that she can affect change in her home, and create more opportunities and options for those in need of mental health treatment.

As part of her MA program, Hayat is completing her counseling practicum with Asian Pacific Development Center, where “services are tailored to address the needs of immigrant and refugee status clients. Issues involving cultural adjustment, such as language, values, customs and behavioral differences, are often intimately associated with the client’s chief complaint” (APCD 2018). Hayat’s fluency in two languages, her strong interest in helping refugees, and her commitment to social justice make her a great addition to the team at APDC, and to the MA program here at MCE.

Hayat is eager to make a difference in the Denver community through her work with APDC, but her involvement with refugee advocacy and support began well before accepting her practicum position. In 2016, she volunteered with Northern Lights Aid, an NGO that started as a project to provide emergency relief and supplies to refugees in Lesvos, Greece, and now is “focused on implementing innovative, compassionate solutions and creating community-oriented projects serving around 400 residents of the Kavala Perigial camp (NLA 2018).

Recently, Hayat participated in the Vagina Monologues here on campus as part of the DU Health and Counseling Center’s Love+ Sex+ Health Week. The week-long event promotes education and awareness around issues of sex, sexuality and gender, and proceeds from the resistance-themed Vagina Monologues went to Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the global organization VDAY. Hayat wanted to get involved with the event to promote gender equity on-campus, and to feed her passion for performing.

When asked why she chose the Counseling Psychology program at MCE, Hayat said that she appreciated the college’s emphasis on social justice and multicultural issues, and that she felt the CP faculty were compassionate and engaged. As a current student, she appreciates that the faculty are willing to work with students at all development levels, and they are willing to push some boundaries to foster real learning and growth in students.

We know that Hayat’s commitment to helping marginalized populations around the country and the world is part of what will make her a great counselor, and thought-leader in the field.

Khara Croswaite Brindle graduated  from Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology master’s program in 2012 with a passion for helping and a keen ear for listening – and understanding – others. Today, she is a private practice licensed professional therapist with a focus on clients using Medicaid. At nights and on the weekends, she runs her own business developing an app to assess and prevent suicide.

“I saw a need for this assessment tool,” she said, as if this were the simplest thing in the world. “I want people who want to go ‘there’ to be able to have that tough conversation and be able to access resources to get help.”

By people who want to go “there,” she means teachers, coaches, case managers, anyone who may be in a professional position to see another person struggling but not be a clinical mental health professional. Her goal is to make the conversation about suicide easier to approach, easier to have, and easier to know what to do. Her app works like this. Said person (let’s call them the professional) sees another person struggling. Maybe they have every day contact, maybe they see them once a week, but they believe this person is having a hard time. They decide to broach THE question, the tough question, the one they know the answer to but maybe do not know what to do with the response.

“Do you want to kill yourself?”

“Are you suicidal?”

“Do you have thoughts of harming yourself?”

They bring up the app. The app is loaded with the suicide risk assessment, and the professional begins the heart-to-heart. Together, they talk, the professional listens, and they have the conversation. Once complete the app populates next steps, organizations to contact for additional help, where to find online and face-to-face support, and who to call for emergency assistance. It also goes one step further and populates resources based on factors such as age and geographical location. Currently its resources are for the entire state of Colorado.

Croswaite Brindle stresses that this app is not meant to be a total assessment. This is also not a one and done conversation. This app is meant to help on the spot and give the professional and the person hurting a beginning roadmap to intervention and recovery.

In her practice, Croswaite Brindle regularly works with at-risk populations. This is a conscious decision to provide the best possible care to patients with Medicaid. She works with teenagers, single parents, individuals struggling with gender identity, veterans; she works with regular, everyday people who are struggling and each and every day her goal is to provide them with the best possible care.

“I think my cohort at Morgridge helped to frame my career now,” she said. “My class graduated and we were so excited to get out and be agents of change.”

An agent of change she is. Already her app is in use and under development. She has started to work with the Mental Health Center of Denver and run workshops with other professionals to continue to build resources and continue to assess risk factors. She considers Colorado to be her pilot state, but her long-term goal is to have the application be used nationwide and endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Through it all, she stays in contact with her professors at Morgridge. Now colleagues in the field, she finds their support and encouragement invaluable.

“My connections are wonderful to have,” she said. “It’s been great to continue to collaborate and exciting for me to see the cohorts grow. I definitely am a proud Morgridge alum, and someday I hope to be back in some capacity.”

Back as in, getting a PhD, teaching the next generation of mental health professionals?

“I can see all of that,” she smiles. “Someday.”

More information about the app can be found at Cacs-co.com.

Students Sarah Laffin and Aleksandra Matysek completed a six-week school-based mental health practicum this past fall in Beijing, China as part of an international exchange program between Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the CFSP program. The program – now in its fourth year – was developed to broaden students’ multicultural competence and to promote the field of school psychology.

Laffin and Matysek completed their practicum with graduate students from BNU at Jingyuan School, a public middle and high school located in Beijing’s fifth ring. They worked with an on-site supervisor to plan and deliver weekly classroom mental health lessons, group counseling, and career development services. Laffin and Matysek also engaged in a cross-cultural comparison of school-based approaches to identify and manage student anxiety and gave a joint teleconference presentation to graduate students and faculty at both BNU and the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) on the topic.

One important finding discussed was that while levels of general anxiety are about the same in both cultures, social anxiety is more prominent in China due in part to the cultural focus on harmonious relationships and social restraint. Laffin and Matysek learned that students in the United States are more likely to seek help managing anxiety, possibly due to a greater awareness and acceptance of the role mental health plays in academic and life success. Two graduate students from BNU will reciprocate the exchange this spring, coming to MCE to attend selected classes and accompany current CFSP graduate students to their local practicum sites. They will also give a cross-cultural, joint teleconference presentation.

Laffin and Matysek say that their increased global understanding has had a positive influence on their practice and has increased their confidence in communicating with bi-lingual students and families in the United States. The international exchange program has been of mutual benefit as peers and faculty at BNU have been able to employ the counseling tools and methods introduced by CFSP students. The exchange has fostered an increased international appreciation of school-based mental health, helping BNU to establish a graduate program supporting China’s emerging field of school psychology.


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