Seattle Public Schools

Mental Health Awareness Month

Summary: Seattle Public Schools (SPS) mental health team works day in and day out to ensure students, staff, and families have the resources they need.

Celebrate Our SPS Mental Health Superstars

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) mental health team works day in and day out to ensure students, staff, and families have the resources they need to succeed. Whether it’s in the classroom, at home, or in life, these professionals provide much needed care to the SPS community.  

Two team members who contribute greatly to this cause are Savanna Willis and Rachel Barrett. They make up the Tier Three Mental Health Consultant team. As tier three specialists, Willis and Barrett work to increase students’ access to the learning environment, support and grow adult skills, and respond to overall student needs.  

Rachel Barrett smiling at camera next to her dog, Goldie.
Rachel Barrett and Goldie

They also assist teachers and families by providing support, teaching skills, and sharing tools to understand student behavior. This is to help aid students in their progress. 

“A lot of the time I feel like I’m trying to support adults and correctly decode student behavior,” said Barrett. “It’s really, really easy – especially for exhausted teachers in this post pandemic world – to view a kid’s behavior as oppositional, defiant, willful or planful. A lot of times I’m helping interpret the mental health diagnosis through direct observation.”  

Additionally, the specialists serve as a thought partner to the adults they support.  

Savanna Willis standing inside John Stanford Center smiling at camera.
Savanna Willis

“Sometimes [adults] already kind of have the skills or they know what it is they need to do, but they need someone to bounce those ideas off of,” said Willis. “So sometimes we’re just a listening ear.”  

Barrett also acts as an advocate in some cases. Not only is she a mental health professional, but she’s also a mom of three kids—two of which are on the autism spectrum.  

“I want to leverage my knowledge and my privilege to help families access the supports they need,” said Barrett.  

When needed she’ll write up her observations and ask families to read them to their family doctor. She’ll even offer to be put on speakerphone or Zoom into an appointment to assist a family.  

“Sometimes parents aren’t heard by their providers or systems,” said Barrett. “I work with a lot of families where people are assuming it’s a parenting problem, when it’s actually far, far beyond that.”  

Willis, Barrett, and the entire SPS mental team work hard every day to support the SPS community. Let’s celebrate their work during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond!  

Additional details about SPS mental health services are available on the SPS Health Services Mental Health webpage

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