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Lincoln, NE: "Growing impact of trauma, behavioral problems and mental health needs of students"

July 1, 2018, Lincoln (NE) Journal Star: LPS works to pinpoint mental health problems, provide therapy to keep chaos out of classrooms …Today, therapists from both organizations have offices in 30 LPS schools. Family Service also has therapists in five schools in Saunders County and therapists from both agencies have group therapy programs at certain high schools and middle schools. … In 2017 -- the last time the Centers for Disease Control did its biennial risk behavior survey of high school students -- 27 percent of Nebraska students reported feeling depressed. Sixteen percent had considered suicide. The numbers in both categories have continued to rise in recent years. A spike in teen suicides in Lincoln four years ago prompted the creation of a community suicide prevention coalition that has worked to increase awareness, promote conversation and reduce the stigma of suicide. LPS lessons include suicide prevention and awareness information, and last year, the district began screening students considered a suicide risk by themselves or others…. About 8 percent -- or 619 -- of the LPS students who received special education services last year were diagnosed with an emotional disorder, a 45 percent increase over the past five years that reflects the growing impact of trauma, behavioral problems and mental health needs of students. School officials cite addressing students’ mental health needs among the most pressing issues they face -- and beefing up mental health services was one of the prongs of a new interlocal agreement between the city and LPS. Trauma often the root Many of the students whom therapists work with suffer from trauma, Anderson said, and they’re seeing children showing the effects at younger and younger ages. “Trauma is the root,” she said. “We’re treating trauma ... and trauma can show itself with so many faces.” It can manifest itself as anger or aggression, depression or anxiety, in students who harm themselves or quit coming to school or whose grades fall. Townsend said the anger has gotten worse in recent years -- students who throw desks, are unable to control themselves, unable to regulate their behavior. Those are often the children who show up in her office. … Teachers -- and others at school -- are often the ones who notice behavior or changes that can signal a child is suffering, therapists said, and that makes for a good partnership with mental health therapists…. To that end, the district has made it a priority to hire more social workers who focus on students' mental health needs and can connect them to additional services. The district now employs 36 social workers and hopes to hire more.

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