We’ve all heard the alarming statistics: One in five children have or will have signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder. Only 20 percent of children who have mental health disorders receive the treatment they need, and most concerning, suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and adolescents.

Many know these statistics because they live them. They watch children struggle daily, not always knowing how to help. The mental health crisis is leaving parents, caregivers and educators wondering “What can we do?” and “How can we help?” Thankfully, there are several ways to help.

Research clearly shows that mental health education, early identification, intervention and collaboration of services (among families, community, and schools) can result in positive outcomes for our children with mental health concerns. Using trauma informed practices, teaching, modeling, and practicing social and emotional learning skills and strategies help our children develop the skills they need to navigate difficulties they encounter throughout life. Families, schools and communities must work together to provide our children with these critical life skills.

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Central Rivers AEA uses multi-tiered system to help schools identify and provide support to children who may be struggling. The goal of this work is to identify students early and meet the needs of the whole child, helping them achieve a positive well-being. Some schools have started this process by completing universal screenings for social and emotional concerns. These screenings are the same as screening for math or reading concerns. The goal is to identify students who may be “at-risk” and provide additional supports to meet the child’s needs.

Reducing stigma through education is also a critical step. Central Rivers AEA has staff members who are working collaboratively with school counselors, teachers and administrators to increase their understanding of mental health, suicide awareness, and evidence-based interventions to support students. Central Rivers AEA also has staff members with expertise in mental health and behavior who are available to support school teams and students. If you think your child is struggling with mental health concerns and need to access support, please contact your child’s principal.

Watching someone you love struggle with mental health concerns can be overwhelming, but you are not alone. We can work together to get our children what they need.

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Dana Miller is a school psychologist with Central Rivers AEA. She can be reached at dmiller@centralriversaea.org


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