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Schools look to address students’ mental health
by Tribune Staff
May 09, 2012 | 1310 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — The Washoe County School District joined with Nevada first lady Kathleen Sandoval and The Children’s Cabinet to mark National Children’s Mental Health Day Wednesday.

According to a recent report from The Children’s Behavioral Mental Health Consortium, there has been a noticeable increase in calls for help from young people in Nevada who are experiencing stress and anxiety in their lives.

Many times, this is due to financial strain at home, district spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said.

That stress and related mental health issues can manifest itself in potentially devastating ways, including substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual behavior, violence, gang activity, depression and suicide.

“There has been an increase in both volume and complexity of those with mental health needs,” said Scott Reynolds, chief student support services officer for WCSD who is also the chairman of the Nevada Children’s Behavioral Health Consortium. “This intense and complex issue requires a community and statewide effort to address effectively.”

Sandoval, who also works with troubled youth at The Children’s Cabinet, supports the effort to draw attention to the challenges associated with mental health issues and children.

“As first lady and in my work at The Children’s Cabinet, I have dedicated my energies to raising awareness of mental and behavioral issues and helping Nevadans find assistance,” she said.

Mental health experts say it is crucial to identify destructive behaviors early and steer young people toward resources that can help, because mental health issues can quickly spiral out of control. But the stigma surrounding mental illness can be powerful, and young people and their families may be reluctant to admit there is a problem.

“That stigma can stand in the way of life-saving measures,” said Katherine Loudon, coordinator of school counseling and Safe and Drug Free Schools at WCSD. “There are resources available to treat these children, but we have to identify them first. It can be a struggle.”

The WCSD and The Children’s Cabinet are introducing Teen Screen, a program that focuses on at-risk students. This program provides a mechanism for early identification and referral. Parents partner with the schools and community, introducing check-ups for childrens’ mental health. Parents give permission for the community screening and counselors help to make referrals.

Much like a medical checkup, dental care and inoculations, a child’s mental health is a part of comprehensive wellness. See more at www.teenscreen.org/resources/parents-teens/.

Warning signs can include excessive or lack of sleep, eating constantly or not at all, moodiness, a drop in grades, loss of interest in activities or change of friends.

For more information, visit www.nasponline.org.
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