District Administration September 2017 - 12

OnTopic

Michael Beresford and Brooke Lawson
By Tim Goral

Destigmatizing mental health
starts in schools
How one district helps students in crisis get the help they need

The number of young people suffering from depression
has increased almost 40 percent in the last three years.
And, as the Hamilton Southeastern School District has
found, mental health issues are hardly limited to teens.
After the city of Fishers, an Indianapolis suburb of about
90,000, had 13 suicides in 2016, city officials launched
a campaign to destigmatize mental health issues-
including in the school system.
Last year, Hamilton schools passed a referendum to
provide mental health services to its 21 schools, serving
more than 22,000 students. This fall, 12 licensed
therapists will spend 2 ½ days or more at each school
alongside traditional guidance counselors. District
Mental Health Coordinator Brooke Lawson and Assistant
Superintendent of Staff and Student Services Michael
Beresford discuss the challenges of addressing mental
health issues, and how a student-launched club is helping
to remove the stigma attached to mental illness.

DAmag.me/stigma

12 September 2017

You've said that there was an increase in mental health
events in your district. Tell us about that.
Beresford: It wasn't a dramatic jump, but it was a steady increase. Prior to that, most of the time if you had a despondent
student, or a student who needed mental health services, it was
in high school or occasionally junior high. We're talking about
a handful of kids. Then that climbed to 10 or 12 per year, then
20, and we were starting to see kids from the intermediate
school, which is fifth- and sixth-grade. Occasionally we'd hear
about a kid from the elementary school, and that's when we
started seeing there was a trend. We knew we wanted to get
some support, and having that available at school was going to
be much more effective for our kids.
Is there one mental health issue that is prevalent among
these youths?
Lawson: In our school district, anxiety is a really big issue for
our students. We are a high-performing city. We have a lot of
really successful parents and I think the kids in our school district feel a lot of pressure to perform well.
Beresford: I would say that stress and anxiety are the top two
struggles even in our community. People are bombarded with
bad news and personal problems constantly from many different sources.
What accounts for the increase in problems among elementary students?
Lawson: There are many factors that play into that. Social
media certainly plays a part. Before social media, kids could do
things and no one knew about it. You didn't have to see what
everyone else was doing and compare yourselves to them, and
I think adolescents really struggle with that. They feel they're
missing out on what's going on or that they don't fit in.
Many kids don't know how to cope with their feelings and
haven't developed the social-emotional skills that are so important for children to learn. It's not always being taught at home
like it used to be. Kids don't know how to express themselves-
they can't find the words to say how they're feeling to even ask
for help.
Tell us about Stigma Free HSE.
Lawson: In my second week here, I got an email from a
student asking for my help in creating a mental health club
District Administration


http://www.DAmag.me/stigma

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration September 2017

District Administration September 2017 - Cover1
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