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  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016 12:38 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Article from the Washington Post

    By Colby Itkowitz

    August 17, 2016 at 6:00 AM

    Katie Shoener, pictured here at age 20. (Courtesy: Kelly Lamond)

    Only hours after he learned his only daughter was dead, Ed Shoener sat down to write her obituary. It felt like one way he could still take care of his little girl.

    He and his wife, Ruth, had been steeling themselves for this day since Katie’s first hospitalization more than 11 years ago. He knew immediately why the police were at his doorstep the night of Aug. 3. Yet nothing prepares a parent for the moment they learn the details about how their child ended her life.

    But if Shoener, a deacon at his Catholic church, learned anything watching his daughter’s long struggle with mental illness, it’s that the disease that plagued her is tragically misunderstood. The last thing he could do for his daughter was try to help others understand.

    So, with stunning candor, he began her obituary like this:

    Kathleen ‘Katie’ Marie Shoener, 29, fought bipolar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle on Wednesday to suicide in Lewis Center, Ohio.

    Then, overwhelmed by the fatherly pull to protect her, he wrote this:

    So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that “she is bipolar” or “he is schizophrenic.” Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar — she had an illness called bipolar disorder — Katie herself was a beautiful child of God. The way we talk about people and their illnesses affects the people themselves and how we treat the illness. In the case of mental illness there is so much fear, ignorance and hurtful attitudes that the people who suffer from mental illness needlessly suffer further. Our society does not provide the resources that are needed to adequately understand and treat mental illness. In Katie’s case, she had the best medical care available, she always took the cocktail of medicines that she was prescribed and she did her best to be healthy and manage this illness – and yet – that was not enough. Someday a cure will be found, but until then, we need to support and be compassionate to those with mental illness, every bit as much as we support those who suffer from cancer, heart disease or any other illness. Please know that Katie was a sweet, wonderful person that loved life, the people around her – and Jesus Christ.

    “There’s nothing rational about this illness”

    It was spring of Katie’s senior year in high school when she first attempted suicide. She was a brilliant student, finishing second in her class. She played soccer, musical instruments and had a close group of girlfriends. She dreamed of going to New York University, which, while only 120 miles from the scrappy blue-collar town of Scranton where she’d grown up, felt a world away.

    A young Katie with her parents Ed and Ruth Shoener. (Photo courtesy: The Shoeners)

    Her parents were away the weekend Katie swallowed a handful of pills. They didn’t know she had been quietly suffering, though they found out later that she’d been cutting herself for about a year, covering the scars on her wrists with stacks of bracelets.

    In their small, closeknit community little is kept secret, and everyone at church and at school knew Katie had tried to kill herself. And in those early days, with the diagnosis of bipolar still raw, the Shoeners carried the shame too often associated with mental illness.

    “No one came up to me or Ruth and said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ If she’d gotten in an accident they would have said kind things, but now everyone knew and no one looked at us, like it was a character flaw,” Shoener said in an interview. “We felt shamed, we felt like maybe we weren’t good parents. They didn’t know what to say. As a society we don’t know how to talk to each other about this. We don’t have a language for how to talk about mental illness.”

    Around 5 million Americans, or 2.6 percent of the population, have a bipolar disorder diagnosis, but only around half seek treatment in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Katie was one who did. The rest of her life was a cycle of therapy, medications and hospital stays. She would stabilize and resume her otherwise full and ambitious life, only to have her bipolar resurface.

    “Everyone loved Katie, if you met Katie you couldn’t help but love her. She was vibrant,” Shoener said, his voice catching on the adjective. “There’s nothing rational about this illness. Something in her mind told her she was a terrible person and everybody hated her.”

    Katie’s childhood best friend, Kelly Lamond, said Katie was always looking for ways to make others feel special. She was her friends’ biggest cheerleader. She was “an amazing human,” Lamond said.

    “She woke up every day fighting to be happy,” Lamond said. “It breaks my heart. It makes my heart heavy that she carried that every day.”

    Katie’s 26th birthday dinner with her closest girlfriends. L to R: Katie Shoener, Rosetta Walsh, Kelly Lamond, Christina Gammaitoni, Michelle Conaboy and Molly Hedden. (Courtesy: Kelly Lamond)

    “Katie was not bipolar”

    Katie moved to Columbus, Ohio to earn her MBA at Ohio State University and stayed there for a job. But after another breakdown, she quit, telling the company they deserved a better employee. Without a job, she’d sit alone in her apartment and ruminate. As is the curse of mental illness, her mind was an endless cycle of irrational and negative self-talk. Her parents urged her to move back to Scranton, but she said going home would feel like failing, like falling short of her dreams.

    But recently, she had decided to make a change. She planned to move across the country to live with her older brother and his family in San Diego. She adored her nieces and nephews. Her family and friends were hopeful that she’d finally find peace in the temperate climate and proximity to the kids.

    But two weeks ago, on a Wednesday evening, Katie sat in her car in a remote spot in her apartment parking lot and shot herself. The police told the Shoeners they’d found just a brief note: “This life is not for me,” Katie wrote. She added, “Take care of Mary” — her dog.

    Katie and her parents often spoke about how little society really understands mental illness. That it’s not a weakness or a moral failing. That it’s a very real, potentially fatal, disease. Katie would tell her parents that she didn’t want to die, she didn’t want to hurt them. But the illness, Shoener said, is “evil.”

    Shoener is a deeply religious man, and for a long time suicide was viewed as a sin in Catholicism. But in the last two decades, there’s been a greater acceptance from the the church that people who kill themselves may be suffering from a psychological issue beyond their control. For Shoener, educating people about mental illness and suicide feels like a mission from God. That in death, Katie will save lives.

    The obituary, and a similar homily he gave at her funeral, have provided comfort to the many people who have since approached him or emailed him expressing gratitude for his honesty about what Katie endured.

    And her friends are now advocates too. They’re organizing a “5Kate” run on her birthday this year – Halloween. The tagline for the event is: “Wear a costume, but don’t mask mental illness.”

    “God will use this death to help others come out of the shadows. To help people to find a way to talk to each other about this illness,” Shoener said. “Katie was not bipolar. She was a wonderful girl who had bipolar disorder.”

    Read more mental health awareness coverage from Inspired Life:

    I told the truth about my sister’s suicide in her obituary so that others might choose to live

    Suffering Out Loud: People are coming out with their mental issue to end stigma

    Kids hand him their suicide notes. Now this musician has 120 of their names tattooed on his arm

    His mom publicly compared him to killer Adam Lanza. Now the teen is opening up about his bipolar disorder.

  • Wednesday, August 17, 2016 11:26 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Twelve local schools held Mini-THONs during the 2015-16 school year and in doing so helped raise more than $5.5 million for Four Diamonds, an organization that helps children with cancer.
    York Dispatch
    Full story

  • Friday, August 12, 2016 8:04 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    The PDE Office of Safe School's School Climate Leadership Initiative (SCLI) is a new effort focused on building capacity for school climate leadership in Commonwealth through the establishment of networked learning communities focused on building safer, more supportive schools.    This year, SCLI will provide an opportunity for individuals to be trained in the National School Climate Center's (NSCC) School Climate Improvement Process.  Trainer candidates, from each of Pennsylvania’s Intermediate Units, are currently participating in NSCC’s online learning modules, in-person trainings and ongoing coaching. These trainer candidates, known as School Climate Regional Coordinators (SCRCs), will be working with at least 2 building level school climate improvement teams (newly formed or existing teams/committees). 

    Schools have many initiatives, curricula, programs and strategies in place which address school climate improvement.  However, they often report a need to identify and utilize an organized process (best practice) to do this important work.  When a strategic process is not utilized the result can be another "program de jour" based on the reaction to data or an isolated incident.
    The NSCC School Climate Improvement Process is not a program and most importantly involves the five following stages:

    •       Stage one or "Preparation" assists schools in forming a team or examining an existing committee whose focus is school climate improvement and obtaining buy-in from staff to complete the process from start to finish.
    •       Stage two or "Evaluation" helps schools examine existing data or collect new data which will help to identify needs as they relate to school climate.  This can include data such as SAP data, PA Youth Survey Data, PA School Climate Survey data and incidents reported on the Safe Schools Annual report. 
    •       Stage three or "Action Planning" assists schools with aligning strategies to address identified needs.
    •       Stage four or "Implementation" involves the actual implementation of strategies listed on the action plan.
    •       Stage five or "Re-evaluation" consists of collecting and examining current data to determine progress made or adjustments needed to existing strategies.

    The NSCC School Climate Leadership Certification will provide SCRCs with a high level of understanding of these 5 stages and position them to provide schools with the support, expertise and guidance needed to create and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.  For more information, please contact Stacie Molnar-Main at c-smolnarm@pa.gov.

  • Friday, August 12, 2016 7:57 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    On July 10, 2015 Governor Wolf signed PA House Bill 229 into law.

    HB 229 is now Act 26 of 2015.  Act 26 amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in assault, further providing for the offense of harassment.

    Act 26:

    1.       Defines cyber harassment of a child and makes it a crime.

    2.       Explains what occurs if a juvenile is charged with this offense.

    3.       Defines the following: emotional distress, repeatedly communicates and seriously disparaging statement.

    4.       Becomes effective September 8, 2015.

    For more information or to read the law, please visithttp://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2015&sInd=0&body=H&type=B&bn=229

  • Thursday, August 11, 2016 7:29 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    I Can Problem Solve (ICPS) is a universal school-based program that focuses on enhancing the interpersonal cognitive process and problem-solving skills of children ages 4-12. ICPS is based on the idea that there are a set of skills that shape how children behave in interpersonal situations. These skills are influenced by whether they can predict the consequences of their own actions; how they view their conflicts with others; and whether they can think of solutions to these problems.

    This is a two-day training; registration will begin at 8:30 AM and the training will begin at 9:00 AM and conclude at 3:30 PM each day.  Act 48, NASW and PQAS continuing education credits will be available (pending approval). 

    Date

    September 27-28, 2016

    Location

    Center for Schools and Communities
    275 Grandview Avenue, Commonwealth Room (First Floor)
    Camp Hill, PA 17011

    Registration Fee

    The registration fee of $250 per person is available through September 16, 2016 and includes training, grade-level curriculum and lunch. A limited number of onsite registrations will be accepted at a fee of $300; payment to attend will be required by either check or credit card.

    Click here for additional information and to register.

    Questions

    Sally Canazaro
    Grant & Fiscal Management Coordinator
    (717) 763-1661 ext. 168
    scanazaro@csc.csiu.org

  • Wednesday, March 16, 2016 11:11 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    HARRISBURG, Pa., March 16, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania American Legion are seeking applicants for "State Police Youth Week," a leadership camp designed for teenagers interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement or the military.

    The week-long camp is staffed by members of the Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and Pennsylvania American Legion. During the camp, cadets take part in team-building exercises, physical fitness training, classroom activities involving police and military careers, and a marksmanship course. Cadets will also visit the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey and Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Center in Lebanon County.

    The camp will be held at York College in York, Pennsylvania from June 12 through the 18. Males and females interested in applying for the camp must be between the ages of 15-17 prior to entering the camp and not reach the age of 18 before or during the camp. Students who have previously attended the camp as a cadet are not eligible to apply again.  Applicants are expected to have a good academic record and be in good health. For application information, visit the Pennsylvania American Legion website at www.pa-legion.com and click on the "Programs" link or call the Pennsylvania American Legion Headquarters at (717) 730-9100.

    State Police Youth Week was established in 1970 with the goal of improving the relationship between Pennsylvania's youth and the law enforcement community. Last year, 70 cadets participated in the camp.

    MEDIA CONTACTS:  Tpr. Adam Reed, 717-783-5556

    SOURCE Pennsylvania State Police Department

  • Sunday, March 13, 2016 10:13 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    Saying the “F-word” during class used to mean an automatic out-of-school suspension for students in Woodland Hills. Not anymore.
    Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 13, 2016
    Full story

  • Wednesday, January 06, 2016 4:16 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    The drug kratom is being used by some people as an alternative to heroin and other illegal drugs even though it, too, can be addictive, The New York Times reports.

    Kratom is increasingly popular and easily available, the article notes. Some people using kratom go back to using heroin, which is stronger and less expensive. Powdered forms of kratom, which come from a leaf found in Southeast Asia, are sold in head shops, gas station convenience stores and online.

    The drug is categorized as a botanic dietary supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot restrict the sale of kratom unless it is proved unsafe, or manufacturers claim it treats a medical condition. The FDA banned the import of kratom into the United States in 2014.

    Kratom is not controlled under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern,” and notes on its website that there is no legitimate medical use for kratom in the United States.

    According to the DEA, at low doses, kratom produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, and talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects.

    Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming have banned kratom. The Army has forbidden its use by soldiers, according to the newspaper.

    “It’s a fascinating drug, but we need to know a lot more about it,” said Dr. Edward W. Boyer, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who has studied kratom. “Recreationally or to self-treat opioid dependence, beware — potentially you’re at just as much risk” as with an opiate, he said.

    Kratom bars have opened in South Florida, as well as Colorado, New York and North Carolina. The bars sell brewed varieties of kratom, in plastic bottles that look like fruit juice.

  • Wednesday, December 09, 2015 8:15 AM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    The article below is a repost from the Center for Safe Schools website in honor of Don Smith.  Don was a good friend of PASAP and SAP in Pennsylvania.  He presented at our conference several times.  He will greatly missed.

    December 8, 2015 – It is with great sadness that the Center for Safe Schools announces that emergency planning and response management coordinator, Donald W. Smith, Jr., passed away Friday following a five-year battle with cancer.

    Don was a charismatic and compassionate professional who devoted his career and life to keeping communities and schools safe.

    The professional relationship and personal friendship we had with Don have been a source of enrichment and enjoyment to all of us. Don was held in the highest regard by his Center colleagues and by many others with whom he worked in school safety, law enforcement and emergency response.

    Center staff will remember Don for his energy, optimism, enthusiasm, good humor and tireless efforts. He will be dearly missed.

    Obituary 

  • Tuesday, December 08, 2015 3:13 PM | Terry Kerr (Administrator)

    December 7, 2015

    Dear SAP Colleague

    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) is administered by the PA Department of Education’s Safe Schools Office in partnership with the PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs’ Division of Prevention and Intervention, and the PA Department of Human Services’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  SAP is designed to assist school personnel in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success.

    Each year the PA Network for Student Assistance Services (PNSAS) updates their statewide contact lists.  We would appreciate your assistance in obtaining information from your building.  Please click on the link below under the attachments section to access the form listed.  Complete and email it to your PA Network for Student Assistance Services Regional Coordinator (view PNSAS map here for email address) by January 15, 2015.

    A new resource now available is “SAP Frequently Asked Questions and Best Practice Responses”, located on the SAP website www.pnsas.org.  This document is helpful for teams to review and enhance their understanding of issues related to implementing the Student Assistance Program.  Also, monthly SAP County Coordination Updates can be found on the SAP website under the “About SAP” tab.

    Please contact your PNSAS Regional Coordinator.  Thank you for your dedication to SAP and we hope the rest of your school year is successful.

    Sincerely,

    PA Network for Student Assistance Staff

    Attachments
    http://pnsas.org/Portals/1/Uploaded Files/Final Student Assistance Core Team Information 12-4-15.docx

    Note: If document does not download by clicking the link, copy and paste the link text in browser bar .

Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals
PO Box 165
Titusville, Pennsylvania 16354 

Email us: support@pasap.org 

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