Helping kids cope

Mission | May 2, 2016

One in five children will experience a significant emotional, behavioral, or psychological problem, statistics show. Anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, loss, and difficulties with focus and attention are among the challenges that kids can face.

Meanwhile, an estimated two-thirds of children with mental health problems do not have access to the help they need.

Vera French Community Mental Health now has 24 therapists in schools throughout Scott County. The goal is simple: to provide support for kids right where they go to school.

“School is a safe place,” said Jennifer Streets, director of the school-based program. “Kids make better headway if they are comfortable.”

The school-based program is one of the Vera French initiatives that St. Paul supports through its benevolence fund, with a $5,000 donation this year. The number of children seen in just the first half of this school year topped 500.

The mission of the initiative is to support access, familiarity, and partnerships.

Access: Children are identified, evaluated, and treated in the familiarity of their own school.

Familiarity: Children and parents know the school facilities, faculty, and staff. This familiarity helps dispel the stigma that can stop families from seeking help for mental health problems.

Partnerships: The school-based model provides a way to help children facing mental health challenges while limiting disruption to the school community. Therapists work one-on-one with kids and with teachers, staff, and parents to build goals for behavioral and psychological improvement at home and school.

Ellen Reilly, learning supports specialist with the Davenport schools, said that school-based therapy is an invaluable resource. “We have more and more youth who have mental health issues,” she said. Common challenges are depression and anxiety. “This allows students the immediate access to treatment they need.”

With treatment, she noted, recovery is not only possible, but probable.

“The therapists are part of the school team. I cannot say enough about them. They are right there with youth who are not being successful in school because of mental health.”

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