City schools announce partnership on student MH services

High school students in the School District of Philadelphia can now receive digital mental health and well-being resources through a partnership with Kooth, an international leader in online youth mental health.

Between September and December, nearly 18,000 students at 139 schools across the district, received individual support and services by counselors.

Students were supported through grief and loss, anger management, coping skills, controlling emotions, self-esteem, crisis management and safety procedures, according to district officials.

The district held two informational workshops for parents Tuesday about Kooth, the services that would be offered to students and online safety procedures and protocols.

“Our children in Philadelphia are faced with senseless violence and trauma,” said School District of Philadelphia superintendent Tony Watlington Sr. in a statement. “The mental health of our students remains a top priority.

“That’s why we’re enhancing mental health services for our students by giving them access to Kooth,” he said. “We hope that Kooth will be a helpful resource for our high schoolers if and when they need it.”

Through the partnership with Kooth, district students will have immediate, confidential access to professional support, self-help content, moderated forums, journaling, goal-setting and therapeutic activities from their smartphones and computers.

The online platform offers three tiers of support for students including self-help, forums and articles and professional counseling. Kooth is available for all district high schoolers at no cost.

“This is a safe anonymous platform so students will be able to create an anonymous username,” said Matthew Falsetta, engagement lead at Kooth.

“They will have access to personal tools that can be done on an individual level.

“We have things like goal setting, mood journaling and other activities,” he said. “We have forums and Kooth magazine, which is a collection of articles that’s written by our team and students. In our discussion boards, students can publicly chat with other peers, however, all of that would be pre-moderated.

“If a student wanted to publish an article or pose a question or reflection in the discussion boards our clinical team would read it first prior to publishing,” he added.

Students can also receive professional counseling through asynchronous messaging as well as ongoing live-chat based counseling. All messages will be responded to within 24 hours.

“We believe that the platform is accessible and available for all to be supported in a universal way,” Falsetta said. “Our self help and our community forums are available 24/7 and our clinical team is available for a live chat seven days a week.

“If a student feels that they need to chat with a licensed qualified counselor, they will receive a response within 24 hours,” he said. “Those students can schedule that professional chat Monday through Sunday in the evenings.

“We acknowledge that mental health supports come from a team, be it a family, your school counselor, a medical practitioner or an outside of school program,” he added. “We view ourselves as an additional support, never something to replace something that’s already happening in supporting your child or your student.”

According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary and Trends Report, 42% of high school students felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row that they stopped doing their usual activities.

One in three high school girls have seriously considered suicide, a 60% increase from a decade ago. In an average classroom of 30, three students or 10% will attempt to end their lives this year.

More than 80,000 students across the state will have access to Kooth and the company has delivered more than 1 million hours of therapy internationally.

“For too many young people, counseling has been out of reach and we see them struggling with increasing rates of mental health challenges,” said Kooth U.S. general manager Kevin Winters in a statement.

“Students are facing unique issues and Kooth knew we needed to create a unique solution,” he said. “We’re proud to offer this product to the School District of Philadelphia and other schools across the state.”

For more information on Kooth, go here.