One in six students ages 6-17 experienced a mental health crisis each year, according to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Health. In Powell, mental health is a concern for the student …
One in six students ages 6-17 experienced a mental health crisis each year, according to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Health. In Powell, mental health is a concern for the student population. Using grant funding and community partners, 107 students have received mental health support.
The results of a state survey by Wyoming Project Aware directed toward sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th graders indicated that 7.57% of students in the state attempted suicide one or more times in the last year and 14.1% of students seriously considered suicide.
“So those are numbers that we want to change. I can’t say that I was shocked by those numbers, because Wyoming has had the highest suicide rate in the nation for a couple of years running now,” Community Mental Health Coordinator Adrienne Cronebaugh said. “We want to address it, we want to reduce that stigma around it and we want to connect these kids with services.”
Superintendent Jay Curtis said that Wyoming’s funding model for education includes very little support for mental health, so “districts have had to make the decision that we had to support it.”
He said that student mental health plays directly into a student’s education — students cannot learn at a high level if their mental health is not taken care of.
“It is critical for students to have positive connections at school,” Powell High School Principal Tim Wormald said. “When students are involved in a positive way in the school setting, they tend to perform better academically, and often they are in a better place with their mental health.”
PHS counselor Kara Miller applauded the new lifetime activities and group exercise and personal wellness physical education courses for 2023-2024 that “aim at supporting student academic balance, knowing the importance that physical activity plays on our overall wellbeing and mental health.”
Curtis said that Powell utilizes a multi-tier system of support for student’s mental health. The first tier of support is social emotional learning which is provided to every student. The second tier of support comes from school based mental health professionals, which Curtis explained is not therapy. Students who exceed the school’s ability for support receive referrals to receive tier three support from mental health professionals who partner with the school.
This third tier of support is possible through the use of the Wyoming Project Aware, a substance abuse and mental health services administration (SAMHSA) grant. During an April school board meeting, Community Mental Health Coordinator Adrienne Cronebaugh said schools in Park County School District 1 have been able to serve more than 100 students in the past two school years through a process that includes heavy parental involvement; no services are provided without parental consent. Students served have access to counseling services during the school day at no cost thanks to the SAMHSA grant.
“What we did [starting in 2020] is first look at what resources we have and what barriers our families currently had to access those services,” Cronebaugh said.
She said that for district families, time, transportation and cost were a boundary for students to receive mental health care. Using grant funds PCSD1 has partnered with One Health to have an on-site counselor for students. In the event that the SAMSHA grant is not renewed upon its expiration in 2025, counseling appointments are still run through student insurance when applicable. This way, even though the grant covers appointment costs, if it goes away One Health is a federally qualified health center which allows them to provide a sliding fee for services based on income. PCSD1 also partners with Yellowstone Behavioral Health Center and Chrysalis treatment center.
“Currently we have 56 students that are in services and 11 on the waitlist, so the need is there,” Cronebaugh explained during an April school board meeting.
She added that 5% of students are referred for mental health services but only 3% enroll.
“In adding mental health supports/additional administrative support staff in our building it’s allowing the counselors to serve in a more efficient and focused way to meet needs we are seeing,” said Miller. “Our goal is to align more closely to what a comprehensive school counseling model should be like where direct student services, proactive/preventative skill building and non-school counseling related tasks are intentionally met with the data at hand.”
How can parents support their children’s mental health?
Parents can help their children positively maintain their mental health by being involved and encouraging them to be active in what they enjoy, said Adrienne Cronebaugh, Park County School District 1’s Community Mental Health Coordinator. Children copy what they see, she said. To help children, parents can model healthy boundaries, coping skills, be open with their children and hold family dinners.
Cronebaugh added that it’s important that children have positive brain development. To help promote this development parents can make sure their child is getting quality sleep. This may include locking phones at night or removing them from the child’s room.
“For all children we want to promote that positive brain development,” she said.
If a parent is concerned about their child’s mental health they should keep an open line of communication with their child. Warning signs could include if the child is exhibiting drastic changes such as fear or becoming overwhelmed for no reason. Cronebaugh said that parents should seek professional treatment as soon as possible.