It is no secret that today’s students are dealing with an increasing number of barriers to their future successes. Per the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the average classroom has at least five students who are affected by serious mental health needs, one that struggles with abuse, and 10 living in poverty.
The Child Mind Institute states that of those affected, only six to 20 percent receive treatment, making early detection and assessment crucial in preventing their mental health problems from compounding and causing a cycle of inadequate life outcomes.
Recent research shows that without proper intervention, a child’s academic performance can get stuck, leading to a downward spiral of failure in school, poor employment opportunities, and poverty in adulthood.
To help address these barriers, Sheboygan County is taking wonderful steps to help build a comprehensive school mental health system to fulfill the foundational elements needed to foster and sustain a collective impact model by increasing school-based mental health services.
Mental Health America in Sheboygan County’s Mindful Classroom Initiative (MCI) uses mindfulness-based practices to teach students to calm their minds and bodies, improve their focus, understand emotional regulation, and employ kindness strategies.
United Way of Sheboygan County’s Providing Access to Healing (PATH) Program, a school-based mental health program, improves access to mental health services for children and youth who are unable to obtain care elsewhere in the community. Since 2015, over 100 students have been served by United Way’s PATH for Students Program.
Highlighted benefits of the PATH program include improved school performance and behaviors (62 percent), a more positive outlook on life (83 percent), improved relationships (78 percent), and feeling better understood (97 percent). The staff and students in Sheboygan County schools have had tremendous things to say about PATH. In fact, Bryce DeRoos, director of student services for Oostburg School District, states: “Our district, like every district, is filled with individuals who live out the mission of providing the best education possible. Yet, we can’t possibly meet the needs of all students … that is where PATH has filled such a huge gap in our ability to counsel, nurture and support our students. The impact that the PATH program has had at the Oostburg School District is not just with individual students. Rather, our administrators, teachers, support staff and other students have also benefited from the positive changes in the students who participate in PATH.”
This perspective, only one of many in our community, clearly expresses the impact that school-based mental health can have on not only the students but the whole of our community.
If the community believes that every child has an equal chance to thrive, then we need to continue to come together to promote the importance of wellness of body, mind and spirit. By fully welcoming families in co-planning about the needs of the children in our community, by sharing leadership with community mental health providers, and by placing mental health initiatives into the overall school improvement process, we keep this work meaningful and manageable. For more, visit //mhasheboygan .org, or contact Brianna Heusterberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brianna Heusterberg is a mindful instructor at Mental Health America in Sheboygan County and the PATH Coordinator for United Way of Sheboygan County’s PATH Program.