A Polk County student recently created an online petition on Change.org seeking to improve and increase the accessibility of mental health assistance for our students.
We applaud this student, and we support any effort to bring awareness to the importance of mental health issues. We agree that having a mental health counselor at each school dedicated to treating students who need help would be extremely beneficial.
For the upcoming legislative session, Polk County Public Schools will be lobbying lawmakers to fully fund a mental health counselor for each school. School Board members made this a top legislative priority.
PCPS has been using all available resources to expand mental health supports for students. This includes partnering and collaborating with a consortium of community-based mental health service providers, and planning meetings with other districts.
PCPS created a new department of Behavior and Mental Health Support to focus on ways of improving the accessibility of mental health services.
Our school counselors have mental health training, and assist students who need mental health support. In addition, we have 48 psychologists, 28 social workers, and 21 mental health facilitators who provide further assistance throughout the district.
At each of our schools, approximately 10 staff members are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). YMHFA teaches participants to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness, understand risk and protective factors that can impact a youth’s mental health and resiliency, and to identify and access the community resources available to support youth and their families. The district is expanding this training to include five additional staff members per school per year with the goal of having all school staff members obtain this valuable knowledge.
This year, students in grades 6-12 will be given five hours of instruction on the subject of mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
We encourage any students who are facing mental health issues or know someone who needs help to please reach out for assistance. They can do this by contacting their school counselor, administrators or teachers for help.
You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.