/ April 11, 2021

Mental Health Services for High-Needs Schools: What finding a therapist in school meant for one student

Teacher surrounded by students in New York City classroomFor more than two years at Jill Chaifetz Transfer School (JCTS) in the Bronx, Yuri met weekly with her therapist, Samantha Arfin. A licensed clinical social worker with Astor Services for Children and Families, Samantha offers therapy and other clinical services to students like Yuri with support from the Mayor’s Office of ThriveNYC and the Office of School Health. This is Yuri’s story, in her own words:

“I like to be called Yuri; on the outside I’m a pretty simple kid but inside is another world. My childhood was based on being bullied: I got the best grades, cleaned the house, was the sweetest kid… but still got bullied. I didn’t speak until I was two, and even then, chose not to. Why speak when no one listens? My mom was all I had, until I didn’t. I was 16, completely alone, and then my advisor introduced me to Sam.

When I transferred to JCTS, anger became my best friend. I looked for fights. They frightened me, but adrenaline felt powerful. I feel God put the words in my mouth to get help. I remember wanting to be mean to Sam because she was being nice to me. I was hurt, confused, alone, not used to people trying to understand me enough to dig to the bottom of my hurt. Sam reminds me who I am and gave me a place to belong — to reflect, understand, and feel safe within myself. What struck most, she went out of her way to make sure I was okay even after sessions. I wanted to dislike this lady but she was so genuine.

Therapy taught me how our minds are the biggest pawns — how to learn the root of hurt and trauma instead of turning to anger. My message to others: learn to sit with yourself. We avoid being alone in a quiet room trapped with emotions fearing vulnerability. Sit and feel, question it. Cry it out until you feel like giving up. Then remember the times you didn’t – the times you survived. Pay attention; realize the person who stuck around is YOU. Understand yourself, listen to yourself, and don’t be afraid to be yourself! Question. Feel. Be human, because we all have traumas and pains. All of this, I learned in my little time sitting in my little room with my favorite little person. It’s the little things about us that make the big things important.”

AT A GLANCE: Mental Health Services for High-Needs Schools

• Mental health services are on-site at 248 high-needs schools across the five boroughs
• Students have access to individual and group supportive counseling and psychiatric treatment
• Community partners also focus on building each school’s capacity to address mental health needs

• Students have participated in over 181,000 individual or group supportive counseling sessions since the program began in 2017
• Over 14,000 trainings have been provided to teachers, staff and families through this program