By: Marketing & Communications Team
June 13, 2022
Inwood Academy would not be able to make the impact we do without leaders who remain sensitive to changing needs around us. Erica Reyes, Director of Talent Management, makes it her priority to listen to the stories and requests of over 150 staff members on a regular basis. Together with Human Resources Manager Scarlet Lanfrasco, Erica has used her insight to spearhead an initiative that provides free mental health services to our school community.
“Many staff members have been needing a space to unpack everything that’s weighing heavy on them, a space where they can start to work through how to navigate this new normal and challenging reality we all live in,”
Erica shares. This need is by no means limited to our school, but it speaks to a widespread need for accessible mental health care, especially for educators.
According to a recent study, 9 out of 10 therapists say the number of clients seeking care is on the rise, and most are experiencing a significant surge in calls for appointments, longer waiting lists and difficulty meeting patient demand. The EdWeek Research Center administered a nationally-representative, online survey that focused on educators specifically. With responses from nearly 900 K-12 educators, 91% of educators reported experiencing job-related stress sometimes, frequently or always.
Inwood Academy employees and their dependents, as well as students ages 13 and older, now have access to online therapy at no cost through our partnership with leading online behavioral health company, Talkspace. Therapy comes in the form of unlimited text messaging and monthly live sessions. We believe that by advocating for the holistic wellbeing of Inwood Academy staff members, we will be able to sustain a positive school culture, which is foundational for student success.
The inauguration of the Talkspace benefit coincided well with this year’s Staff Appreciation Month, which was dedicated to promoting and enabling self care. We have provided our staff with free subscriptions to the mindfulness app ‘Calm’ for over a year now, and we see the Talkspace membership as an additional resource toward the same goal.
“I think everyone is really starting to see that we are investing in what we think is most important, which is everyone taking care of themselves, so that they are able to then step up and do the hard work that they do every single day,”
explains Erica. The extension of this benefit to family members of employees has been widely received as “an above and beyond approach to supporting our staff, both within our community and then at home with their own family.”
Erica has already utilized the Talkspace resource herself this spring and looks forward to sharing it with her family soon. “It really has surpassed my expectations to see how much support you can receive through text messages and video chats. As somebody who is new to the experience, I have felt supported in knowing that someone was guiding me, not only through all the unpacking, but even in how to engage with the platform.”
In the first two weeks of service, we had 24 staff members sign up for Talkspace through Inwood Academy. Erica and Scarlet hope to see 50% of our staff members enrolled eventually. “But I’m okay with taking time to build to that, because this is very personal, and it requires a connection that people have to explore in their own way,” Erica adds. “I just want to make sure people always know it’s available. It’s not going to go away tomorrow. We’re committing to the length of this service year by year.”
Although Talkspace membership is limited to students ages 13 and older (a Talspace regulation), the resource will benefit students of all ages by further equipping our social-emotional support teams to serve large numbers of students daily.
“Since introducing Talkspace membership to students, our social workers have expressed gratitude for the additional resource to help them support more students with more consistency,” Erica explains. “Our social workers and counselors are superheroes, because even our large team cannot compare to the amount of students we have, and what helps them is that they have the support of every other adult at Inwood Academy…
“…From counselors and social workers to cafeteria employees and principals, every single person at Inwood Academy is always thinking about how to support the whole child. This includes mental health, because they know that a child cannot learn in a classroom without the right social-emotional support. So everyone constantly has their eyes peeled to whether a student needs help, so no person is walking through our hallways unseen.”