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Austin, MN: "More Minnesota students [have] long-term mental health, behavioral/emotional problems"

Oct 26, 2019, Austin Daily Herald: Building a Base: County agencies look to provide more support for improving mental health in students As today’s students faces challenges and stresses that prior generations never encountered, schools and county agencies have been changing the way they approach and talk about mental health. That was the case for Lyle Public School Superintendent Bryan Boysen, who from the start wanted to prioritize supporting students and staff who may be struggling with emotional or mental health issues. Having a background in mental health and law enforcement, he knew that schools are doing more now than ever to help students feel safe. For some students who don’t know what to do with the emotions they’re feeling, it may lead to disruptive behaviors in the classroom. “We tell our staff that whenever their students are acting out, there’s usually something else going on,” Boysen said. “We need to address mental health for our students, as well as physical health. They cannot do one thing if there’s something else that’s not being met. We want our students to have fond memories when they go to school.” There were several things that Lyle did to address those needs. A “movement room” was created where students could release pent up energy instead of releasing it during class and causing a disruption. There were colorful handprints and footprints, instructions on where to jump or crawl, as well as padding. Anyone could use the room, regardless if they had specific needs or not. Boysen also hired a new social worker for the district this year, who works directly with students who may need someone to share their worries. Lyle also works with Fernbrook Family Center and Independent Management Services, who have certified therapists who visit the school and meet with students in a private space where they can divulge some of their burdens…. More Minnesota students reported having long-term mental health, behavioral or emotional problems, which was up from 18 percent of students surveyed in 2016 to 23 percent in 2019. … As society changed, there were also different things that students deal with, such as social media and other methods of technology, that could affect their emotional and mental health. Though it may not be a specific factor contributing to the increase in reports, it could also mean that more were comfortable coming forward to receive help…. Gerard Outpatient Services senior therapist Matthew Tallmadge has been serving the students over at Austin Public Schools who expressed their need for help in addressing mental health and emotional wellbeing. His schedule is almost completely booked, and that’s just with students too. Outpatient Services said that among the schools within APS, the middle school-aged students at IJ Holton Intermediate School and Ellis Middle School saw a higher need for mental health services. When looking at the number of students being helped by Gerard Outpatient Services, clinicians saw an average of more than 100 students during the 2017-18 school year. Just within October 2019, Gerard had received 18 total new referrals from Austin Public Schools. Four clinicians (including Tallmadge) visit the school districts for several days out of the week to meet with students who need mental health therapists. The number of students needing that support has been numerous, with Tallmadge estimating that he saw between “20 to 25 students a week” and between five or six students daily. That’s not including the other patients the therapists meet with outside of school. … Even though it’s hard to say what’s contributing to the increase in the number of referrals that mental health care providers are experiencing, it could also mean that more people were comfortable enough to come and seek help…. “A lot of things happen outside of the classroom,” Alberts said. “There could be a whole host of things. It’s not something that schools have suddenly just started realizing that it needed to be addressed. There are things that public schools cannot address alone, and if we want our kids to succeed, there are other things that intersect where more folks are included on the conversation.”…


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