By Steven A. Monserrate
The Samaritan Wellness program is a mental health screening test administered by the Samaritan Counseling Center of Lancaster, Pa. that will affect the ninth grade class of Penn Manor High School. The program, said Mrs. Melissa Ostrowski, a guidance counselor at Penn Manor, is to work with the students of Penn Manor to help them in any way that they can, even if it means using outside help. The program is only being offered to two schools, and Penn Manor is one of them.
According to Mrs. Kimberly Marsh, guidance counselor, the program is paid for by the Samaritan Counseling Center, and Penn Manor is “providing the space for the program.”
The program, will be held in October, along with the vision, height and weight exams for the ninth grade class. The written test will consist of a few questions that are meant to see if a person is at risk of depression or has thoughts of suicide. The information from the screening will not be accessible to the school; only Samaritan will have access to it.
After this, Samaritan will use the information to find the student help, assuming that both parent(s)/guardian(s) and student consent to the help offered. The student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) and the doctor can then share the information with the school’s counselling department.
Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. Ostrowski agreed that the students and teachers of Penn Manor are constantly working together to prevent suicide and depression. If a student sees a change in a friend’s behavior, the student should not be afraid to tell a trusted adult.
“The program is to reach out to the broad student body,” Mrs. Ostrowski said. “After all, there are four of us and hundreds of students. It will be a mistake to think that we didn’t miss anyone.”
Dr. Philip Gale, principal, explained that the Samaritan program was actually brought to Penn Manor by the former superintendent. The fact that the program was suggested by a familiar source influenced the decision, according to Dr. Gale.
Ms. Maria Vita, psychology teacher, said that the school will have its own club on suicide and depression awareness called the Aevidum. The club will be run by the students in Penn Manor and is present in other schools as well.
“The goal of the club is to promote mental wellness and raise awareness regarding depression and suicide,” Ms. Vita said.
Dr. Gale, Mrs. Ostrowski and Mrs. Marsh mentioned that the screening might only last for one year, and they are unsure whether or not the Samaritan Center will be overwhelmed. The Samaritan Center has limited resources, and might not be able to accommodate a large number of students from the schools where the program runs.
Ms. Vita noted that while the screening might be limited to one year, the Aevidum club will last more than a year.