How schools are putting students’ mental health first

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(ABC 6 News) – Some are more open about struggling with mental health than others. Whether or not your student is, schools in our district are making sure they get the help and resources they need.

Anyone can be impacted by mental health. Sarah Clarke, the Mental Health Coordinator at Rochester Public Schools says it’s normal and common to struggle with it.

Over the last two years, Rochester Public Schools has been going through a strategic planning process. Stakeholders say increased mental health support is needed.

Related: RPS board approves Strategic Action Plan

“Somebody needs to own all that work, and there was somebody that needed to be able to guide and direct the work for the entire district,” said Clarke.

Clarke’s position was added this year to help navigate student and staff mental health resources. She says there’s been an increase in student depression and anxiety.

“Even students who don’t qualify for a mental health diagnosis still struggle with ‘how do I manage this increasingly difficult world?'”

RPS Senior Nandini Iyer is helping her peers manage that world. She created a free mental wellness app – SafeSphere.

“The app was inspired by a tragic suicide in our school district. Highlighting the need for prevention and early recognition of mental illness in adults,” said Iyer.

Stewartville offers different break rooms at its middle and high school to let students take a break as needed.

At Rushford-Peterson, the focus is put on connecting students with staff. Giving them someone they feel they can go to in the good times and bad.

“We always kind of say, ‘You know, kids don’t know how much they know until they know how much you care.’ So finding our way to show our kids how much we care about them on a day in and day out basis,” said Jake Timm, the Middle and High School Principal for Rushford-Peterson Schools.

Timm said part of the reason for this is because of how much time people spend on their screens. On those screens, students might see negative headlines like school shootings across the country.

“Students that if they are a little worried about something or they hear something, I do feel like they’re coming to the administrator right away,” said Doug Gee, the Superintendent of the Clear Lake Community School District.

“If you hear something, say something. I do think kids are doing that now which before they didn’t.”

In the end, anxiety can stem from a number of places.

“All of us deal with mental health struggles at times. In the same way that we all have physical health struggles sometimes,” added Clarke.

Everyone matters. It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you’re struggling or need help, you can call or text ‘988.’

To download SafeSphere, you can click here.