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Salem, OR: Violence/aggression in students the norm now; 20% of kids have a mental illness

Mar 1, 2018, Salem (OR) Statesman Journal: Student mental health crisis spurs Oregon to try in-school programs http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/education/2018/03/01/oregons-student-mental-health-crisisin-school-programs-oregon-address-significant-need-student-menta/496512001/ For Salem school psychologist Chris Moore, it isn't uncommon to see a student come to school, settle into a routine and then, without warning, go into crisis. Maybe the student punches another kid in the face, flips over a desk and curses at the teacher, Moore said. Then they run out of the school. And the teacher has to chase after them. "In their mind, they are trying to survive," he said. Severe depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder are some of the increasingly prevalent and least-understood mental health disorders among K-12 students. About one in five — 20 percent — youth nationwide are affected by some type of mental disorder to such an extent they have difficulty functioning, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Salem-Keizer Public School’s rate is even higher — closer to one in four of the district's nearly 42,000. The pervasiveness of mental health issues and child suicide rates leads Oregon to rank as the worst state in the country for mental illness. And the state's lack of child psychiatrists and school counselors leaves families waiting for months to get help. … Though schools aren’t fully equipped to handle intense, mental health issues, some Oregon districts are starting to develop ways to bring services to students. Salem-Keizer has partnered with Marion and Polk counties and Trillium Family Services, one of the largest mental and behavioral health care providers for families in Oregon,to fill part of the gap in services and lower the waiting time for families. In its pilot year, on-site outpatient programs have been established at Washington and Brush College elementary schools, Crossler Middle School and McKay High School. District officials and school counselors say the change has delivered substantial progress, but it's not enough. The district plans to expand into seven more schools before the end of this school year — … Students respond to mental health crises differently. But Moore has seen attacks involving punching, hitting, kicking and spitting on a regular basis. Some have destroyed property or choked peers and staff. Moore said about 5 percent, or 2,000 students, in the district engage in that extreme behavior. … It’s important for educators to understand how trauma — emotional and physical — affects the brain, Moore said, that there may not be an environmental trigger that sets the brain off and that there are things a person can do to reduce the impact of the trauma students have experienced. But there are still students whose needs “far exceed even that level of intervention,” Moore said, explaining mental illness and trauma often go hand-in-hand. Some students go home to physical abuse, emotional trauma or neglect from a family member, and it "erases all the work they’ve done that day.” “We definitely have kids who have complex needs," said David Fender, the coordinator of Salem-Keizer's Office of Behavioral Learning. "Staff are doing the best that they can.” “When our line of inquiry moves from 'What's wrong with you?' to 'What happened to you?' or 'What is happening to you?' an important shift begins to take place not only in the way we think about trauma and mental health.” … When asked if schools are equipped to address mental health issues, Crossler Middle School staff said, “In a word, ‘No.’ ” “We have seen a huge increase in the number of serious mental health issues that we are not equipped (to handle),” said Donna Burnett, a counselor at Crossler. … In addition to destructive behavior, Burnett and other Crossler counselors are seeing a higher rate of self-harm. When Burnett started as a school counselor 20 years ago, she would file one or two suicide assessments a year. In the last few years, she's filed two or three a week. … “We need ... intensive, mental health crisis counseling on campus at every school in Salem-Keizer,” Roos said. …