Hospital-WR schools pact targets students’ mental health


Some students carry more than books, pencils and backpacks to school.

For some the burden includes emotional trauma, mental health issues, and stress from a troubled home life, according to Dedra Tsosie, who under a new memorandum of agreement between Fort Defiance Indian Hospital Board Inc. and Window Rock Unified School District, will work to help students with those burdens.

“There’s also substance abuse risky behaviors, there’s bullying, there’s grief, there’s depression, all those things contribute to mental health struggles for our youth, so I’m just here wanting to provide support to them and guide them through their situation,” said Tsosie, the school-based mental health specialist with FDIHB’s Division of Healthy Living and Outreach.

The memo established “school-based mental health services” as part of a goal to promote overall health for students with a mental health specialist on site.

In August the school district and the health care provider signed the agreement and the Healthy Living and Outreach office brought in Tsosie, who holds a license as a mental health counselor and a master’s degree.

Services under the memo include psychological evaluations, mental health treatment, substance abuse intervention, short-term and long-term counseling, and referrals for external treatment.

Tsosie said the availability of treatment should show an impact on student ability to function at school – things like paying attention, getting to class on time, and homework.

“It’s just a whole weight on their shoulders versus if they get mental health support, then they are taught about how to cope with these stressors, how to manage their anger, how to set boundaries, how to prioritize, how to focus on their self-care, and what is self-care,” Tsosie said.

Last month, she moved into an office at the Tse’hootsooi’ Middle School, where seventh-graders and eighth-graders have access to her services. She also has a workspace at Window Rock High School.

She said she can use the office space to help students and also reach out to families in need of referrals or other services that might increase the mental health of the parents or guardians.
“I try to extend my services to getting the parents help too,” Tsosie said.

The program, in keeping with the mission of Tséhootsooí Medical Center’s board, will also provide Diné traditional services.

Tsosie also anticipated a threat that comes along with stress, bullying and mental health issues faced by young people – suicide.

“Some of the kids are presenting with suicidal behaviors at schools, so they’re talking about maybe killing themselves or maybe wanting to harm themselves or maybe a history of harm,” Tsosie said.

 To read the full article, pick up your copy of the Navajo Times at your nearest newsstand Thursday mornings!

Are you a digital subscriber? Read the most recent three weeks of stories by logging in to your online account.

  Find newsstand locations at this link.

Or, subscribe via mail or online here.

Categories: Education

About Author

Christopher S. Pineo

Reporter Christopher S. Pineo's beats include education, construction, the executive branch, and pop culture. He also administers the Navajo Times Facebook page. In the diverse neighborhoods of Boston, Pineo worked, earned a master’s in journalism, and gained 10 years of newspaper experience. He can be reached at