Meet New Gopher, Mr. Doane: School Psychologist

Advises teens to get outside, stay connected with friends, and get off social media

Meet Mr. Doane, GBHS Psychologist

Lifetouch

Meet Mr. Doane, GBHS’ Psychologist

Ameena Misbahou-Jalloh, Reporter

Lately, it seems that mental health is becoming more talked about in mainstream media. With the world’s current situation: COVID-19 and quarantine; people have no choice but to socially and physically isolate themselves. Even though social isolation helps reduce the spread of the CoronaVirus, it negatively impacts one’s mental health.

According to Amy Novotney’s entry “The Risks of Social Isolation” from the American Psychiatric Association, social isolation can lead to a feeling of loneliness, which can “wreak havoc on an individual’s physical, mental and cognitive health” and can result in “health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life.”

For teenagers, quarantine has aggravated their mental health problems. In a virtual interview with GBHS’s psychologist, Mr.Doane, we cover the basic effects of quarantine and teenage mental health.

Reporter’s note: If you want to hear more about mental health and stress in a podcast form, check out The Burrow’s podcasts.

Q: “Mr. Doane, why did you choose to become a school psychologist?”

A: “I was always interested in working with young people. I was actually interested in biology when I graduated high school and I went into college, thinking it’ll be my major and I kept that, but as I progressed in college I found that I had more freedom and took psychology courses as well, on the side. I took enough psychology classes to dual major in both biology and psychology. Eventually, psychology took over as my passion. I like working with kids – I’ve always been really connected to my family and as a middle child I kind of feel like it’s natural to support people within my family and working with young people is a natural fit for my personality as well, with whatever challenges they have.”

Q: “What skills do you incorporate to work with teenagers?”

A: “I think teenagers are kind of good with reading the emotions of someone and can tell if someone’s being genuine or not so being myself – I’m not gonna keep this super professional even when we’re talking – so trying to make it seem like its a natural conversation and being comfortable yourself leads to other people in the room feeling comfortable as well. I think that’s a really big thing working with teenagers as well because a lot of the things that need to be talked about are pretty sensitive and not making that personal connection can make it harder to dive into the personal, stressful things that really need to be addressed. Other skills that are helpful: a sense of humor, understanding some of the common stressors, and the common things all people experience. A lot of the time thinking about people who have mental health needs is categorizing whether they need help or not and in my opinion, the wrong way to look at it. Everybody needs support and everybody’s mental health is important. Like I said before, treating people genuinely and not treating them as if they need help and just trying to understand them and their challenges and figuring out ways they need support.”

Q: What advice would you give to kids my age who want to be future psychologists?”

A: “Glen Burnie offers an AP course so get started early, try your best in everything – that’s kind of a generic response – but if you’re really passionate about it, put your effort in it and build your skills so you become useful and make a career out of it; do research on your own if you have further questions or things of your interest. There are different areas of psychology to explore and I think everyone kind of has a natural interest in psychology.”

Q: “What was your first job as a psychologist?”

A: “So looking for jobs out of college, I had a connection with a children’s hospital in DC on their inpatient psych unit. I worked there for six years with my bachelor’s degrees as a counselor with teenagers who were hospitalized for significant mental health needs: depression, suicide attempts, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and all kinds of different conditions where teens really needed some intensive short term care to get back to living in their homes and communities. I really enjoyed that experience and stuck it out there for as long as I could until there weren’t really any opportunities for professional growth anymore.

Q: “What did you learn from this experience?”

A: “While I was working there, I kind of learned about school psychology through contacting students’ schools to get background information to determine what led to their hospitalization and stress from school, social issues, school problems, and domestic challenges as well were big factors and was often helpful to our treatment team. Through my experience, there I decided to pursue my graduate degree and went back to school, did the three-year program to graduate with my master’s degree in school psychology. Living in Anne Arundel County, it was a natural fit to intern here and I’ve been working in the county for the past year.”

Q: “What is school psychology?”

A: “I wasn’t aware of school psychology until I took that position and I think even now people aren’t sure what school psychology is. “School psychologists, like any school position, don’t work solely by themselves. The level of social and emotional health we see being built into schools, especially now with the community wellness block and the time we are in is challenging for a lot of people. I work closely with the special education departments, school’s social worker: Ms. Tammy Bailey? has been awesome with kind of getting me started. She also does a lot of the same counseling with other students, we have a split caseload. We have a Villa Maria therapist at GBHS who meets with some kids through school partnerships for additional mental health support, teachers also and conversations during community wellness, getting that conversation going.”

Q: “What do you do since school is online?”

A: “It is challenging trying to find my role because everyone has already established theirs and I am feeling a bit disconnected but there’s a lot of layers for social and emotional support. I have met students individually, virtually but no one in person yet which is challenging to form relationships through the computer but when it’s safe, we’ll be able to do so.”

Q: “How has quarantine been to you?”

A: “I have been reaching out to kids through google meets, I have sessions with kids that have services outlined, it’s just harder to form that counseling relationship through a computer and it lacks that bond, especially being the new person to Glen Burnie. But I am looking forward to meeting people when it’s safe to do so…physically.”

Q: “What structures are in place for students to access you for Social-Emotional Support?”

A: “There is social-emotional support built into everyone’s school nowadays, especially like the community wellness program in Glen Burnie. I think the first line of support comes from teachers, noticing if a student is having a difficult time; along with counselors, social workers, and myself: a school psychologist, depending on what the issue is. The easiest way for students to advocate for themselves is to go through the school counselors – as part of my role and with the social worker as well, it’s kind of a process to contact the parents first and gain permission to talk to the students but that doesn’t correlate with the school counselors who are able to work with everybody. Unfortunately, there are steps to meeting with the school psychologist and social worker, officially. A lot of it comes from IEP (Individualized Education Program). But there are ways for parents and students to request to meet with a social worker and the school psychologist. It’s just more formal.”

Q: “What do you notice that is most alarming among teenagers and virtual learning due to the pandemic?”

A: “It’s actually interesting what I’ve noticed…some people are really thriving with virtual learning. Students who were stressed and faced social challenges or anxiety of being in school and being around people are doing a lot better in the comfort of being in their own home. That’s not the case for everybody but definitely for those who didn’t feel comfortable going to school before. What’s alarming for students is the uncertainty they have: When is school going to start? When will this pandemic end? What is and what is not safe to do? People are worried about their family’s health conditions, and themselves. There’s a lot of anxiety because of this pandemic. I think it’s important to maintain routines and have a schedule. I notice a lack of schedule, kids stay up at night on technology. Physical activity is also very important and time outdoors. Me and my wife and my 7-month-old daughter, we go on walks every day and that’s part of our routine.”

Q: “What are your thoughts on social media and teens?”

A: “I think it’s different for everyone but giving yourself an amount of time to technology is a good place to start. You can look online about the pandemic and on social media – it can be time-consuming; social media is still a way for people to feel connected with friends, family, and the community – I’m not saying social media is bad, just; pay attention to how much time you devote to social media.”

To finally end this interview, I asked Mr.Doane for a quote. He couldn’t come up with one on the spot, however, he provided a response a couple of days later, stating: “It is a misconception to think that only some people need mental health support. Everyone needs it. People get their support in various ways and some have it naturally built into their daily lives. Others have a harder time accessing the support they need or have had experiences in life that create more stress than they can manage. While it can be difficult to seek help or advocate for yourself if you are feeling stressed out, anxious, sad, lost, or confused – you are not alone and there are people who want to help. I would encourage anyone who is feeling overwhelmed to find someone they trust to talk with or have the courage to answer honestly when someone who cares asks them how they are. If that isn’t an option, access help through phone calls, texts, or web-based communication to one of several organizations that focus on meeting the emotional needs of teenagers. Being honest about what you are feeling or dealing with allows for opportunities to expand systems of support so that everyone’s mental health needs can be met. There are so many things that make life as a teenager difficult already without having to worry about a global pandemic, but no matter what someone is struggling with, no one should feel that they have to suffer in silence.”

Mr. Doane was also kind enough to dispense links and phone numbers for mental health support:

Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline 1-800-422-0009 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
2-1-1 Maryland 2-1-1 Maryland | MD Programs & Services Aid | Get Help
Dial 2-1-1, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
National Suicide Prevention Hotlines
1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Student Safety Hotline 1-877-676-9854 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Crisis Text Line Crisis Text Line | Text HOME To 741741 free, 24/7 Crisis Counseling
Text “Hello” to 741741
Greater Good Online Magazine from Berkeley University Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
National Alliance on Mental Illness Home
Mental Health Resources for adolescents and parents Home – SAHM
Parent Guide During COVID Parenting During Coronavirus
NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) Parenting During Covid- Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19
Resources for students, families, and educators- https://childmind.org/
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Crisis Resource Page: Social/Emotional Resources / Social & Emotional Resources/Crisis Information
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning CASEL – CASEL