Graduate saves lives, trains others in field of social work

Badders discusses warning signs of suicide at a Mental Health First Aid USA course for U.S. Army Materiel
Photo credit: Rachel Ponder

Badders discusses warning signs of suicide at a Mental Health First Aid USA course for U.S. Army Materiel Photo credit: Rachel Ponder

Chloe Ward, Reporter

     Mental health issues, addiction, trauma, abuse. These are issues seen every day, everywhere. One North Harford High School alumna saw these terrible, life-altering  issues among her peers, and decided to become someone who could reduce the amount of pain caused by them.

     A 1994 North Harford graduate, Katie Badders is a social worker who is also a mother, teacher and has multiple degrees and certifications. Back in high school, she said she did not plan on going into counseling. It was not until after she got her first degree in computer information systems that she realized her true calling. “I have quite a few people that I know from school that did get mixed up in drugs and alcohol,” she explains, which is why she started out by becoming a drug and alcohol counselor.

     It was not only peers that were going through this either. Badders said her own sister, Jessie, dealt with addiction involving drugs starting way back in middle school. Although she got treatment and therapy at 18, she unfortunately relapsed and passed away 13 years ago. 

      Badders commented that she went through counseling with her and realized how much it could impact someone’s life. “It helped my family so much and it helped me so much that I wanted to do that for other people,” she recalls. Since the family tragedy, she has also become a grief counselor and therapist for people who have lost loved ones due to substance abuse so they can get the help and strength they need to move on.

     Badder’s first counseling job was actually at a non-public school teaching special ed students with behavioral and emotional issues. It helped her get experience working with different types of people, and she continues to work with students today.   She says her favorite schools to visit are NH middle and high school. She goes into the health classes and teaches young students about drugs, alcohol, and addiction prevention, to bring awareness to the very real issue. She even wrote the Above the Influence program curriculum for high school students.

     The alumna has many other projects that she is currently working on including being the lead instructor for the Lauryn’s Law instruction team. Badders explains that “this is the Team I am working with to train 75 teachers and counselors in MD.” 

     She believes the more people that get training, the more schools can be reached across the state. She also trains with 1,800 offices to teach them about suicide prevention and mental health, is a certified mental health, first aid, and suicide prevention instructor, teaches for the mental health organization of Maryland, and much more to make an impact on people who struggle with addiction and other issues.