Duval County Public Schools has been offering students mental health resources for many years because the district understands that there is a link between mental and emotional health and academic success, according to Katrina Taylor, director of ethical health. at the Duval County Public Schools
Even if there is a desire to help students, especially through school counselors, she also knows that there is a stigma of mental health – and it is not easy for students to seek help.
Thanks to Emily Merton who is a college student and Riverside High School alumna, the district recently unveiled a new program that includes a new website (https://dcps.duvalschools.org/ grow) specifically aimed at mental wellness for young people, as well as the student. -led high school organizations that offer regular activities and initiatives.
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As a communications intern last summer, Merton played a major role in promoting GROW – which means Gain Resilience, Obtain Wellness. He knows the district is trying to find multiple ways for students to get services. This is why even the name of the program is positive.
“I know they have many purposes, but they know they don’t have a key component… student voices. How do the students feel? What did the students say? What are their needs? As a recent high school graduate, I knew I could get my experience and the experience of my peers. I also know that I can conduct research, ”he said in a statement.
Taylor said Merton’s research plays a big role in finding new ways to overcome the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues, and offers many places, organizations, and adults that support mental and emotional health.
May is mental health awareness month, a great time to focus the efforts of people like Taylor and Merton trying to reach young people before they are in crisis mode. Anxiety and depression are the two most diagnosed mental health conditions for middle and high school students, and adjustment disorder is the most diagnosed challenge for elementary students, Taylor said.
Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital report on the continuing rise of mental health crises among our youth. While 2019 has the highest number of behavioral health emergency department encounters for all ages, 2021 has the highest for young people up to the age of 17.
Melanie Patz, who oversees social responsibility and community outreach efforts at Baptist Health, said mental illness is treated completely as opposed to cancer because people naturally want to help someone diagnosed with sick.
“That doesn’t happen with mental illness. There’s a lot of stigma and people tend to feel it’s their fault,” he said. “Mental illness is real, and there are things that can be done to help people feel better, take care of themselves and stay healthy.”
“A lot of what we see in kids is anxiety or depression,” he says, noting that issues include cyberbullying and high stake tests. “The pandemic only made it worse.”
Hospitals provide community resources to help adults help young people, with the goal of preventing crises and improving early intervention. One way is to sign up for their “On Our Sleeves” newsletter which offers resources and tips to engage kids with an important conversation start. The hospital also offers free 8-hour Youth Mental Health First Aid training. The course identifies common mental health challenges and teaches people how to manage crisis and non-crisis situations for young people.
The hospital is also one of 200 children’s hospitals across the country that have joined a national call for legislative action. “Sound the Alarm for Kids” is a campaign to urge Congress to increase funding to address a national mental health emergency in children and teens.
Whether in the hospital or school district, mental health experts often talk about a stigma that prevents young people from seeking help. The community can help by sharing resources.
The GROW initiative started by Duval public schools will help connect students with school counselors, social workers, and mental health therapists. They are ready to respond to needs ranging from mental health counseling and academic support to assistance with housing, clothing, and food.
Marcia Pledger is Opinion and Engagement Editor for the Florida Times-Union. He can be reached at [email protected]