Mental Health Supports and Awareness
By Superintendent Wayne Weber
The topic of school violence remains in the news and on the forefront of most Americans’ minds.
Recently, I was asked by reporter what things we as a school could do to help curb school violence and address the mental health needs of students and their families. My immediate response was that I believe the violence, disconnect, and mental health issues America is dealing with are much more a societal problem than a school problem. We cannot look only to schools for the solution. That being said, as a school we do a number of things to promote a sense of community and address student needs and continue to add to this list. I thought I would take time this month to share some of those things. By no means is this an exhaustive list as I am not going into detail about the positive student/staff relationships, clubs/organizations, counselor meetings, small groups, assemblies, etc.
Our K-8 staff and students focus on themes each month. This year’s themes are responsibility, respect, tolerance, generosity, empathy, perseverance, acceptance integrity/honesty, and teamwork. Examples of how those traits are demonstrated are emphasized throughout the school year, but specifically during the month they are assigned. Students who most exemplify these traits are chosen as students’ of the month and are celebrated at an assembly.
Each year, all freshman are given the opportunity to participate in the Fond du Lac Area YScreen Program. The program’s mission is “to improve the emotional health of youth throughout the Fond du Lac Area by providing early identification of mental health disorders and risks of suicide through easily accessible mental health screening, referral to services and facilitating follow-up treatment through case management.” We believe both physical and mental health play an important role in our students’ ability to be successful in school, positive relationships, and lead productive, happy lives.
This past February, 30 staff members, including administrators, counselors, teachers and educational assistants, underwent Youth Mental Health First Aid training (YMHFA). YMHFA training is designed for those working with adolescents (age 12-18) who may be experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or who are in crisis. The course introduced common mental health challenges for youth, reviewed typical adolescent development and taught a five step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. The topics covered included anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders. The thought is that we all need to ask for help at some point some point in our life. We trained various staff members throughout the district so that when students do reach out, people are prepared and ready to provide appropriate support and resources.
Along that same theme, the District is joining a consortium called Allies in Mental Health Education (AMHE). The mission of AMHE is to develop a sustainable school system that supports the health and wellbeing of all children through a collaborative model that includes school, family and community. This is done by increasing awareness of mental health issues and the capacity to collaborate, plan, and implement a multilevel system of supports centering on promotion of mental health awareness and capacities, prevention of issues and response to concerns.
As I stated earlier, these are just a few of the things we are doing as a district to positively impact the emotional wellbeing of our students. We will continue to look for new and impactful avenues to serve our district families in conjunction with state and local agencies. As always, I welcome your feedback on all aspects of our district, but in this case, specifically on what you feel we can better do to serve the emotional needs of our students.