Some Kentucky schools offer mental health services amid youth crisis

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This story was originally posted by Public press service.

A pilot program launched by the Todd County School District and the local county health department provides free mental health case management services to all public school students.

Abby Dill, supervisor of the Axis program for the Todd County Health Department, said anxiety, depression and self-harm are on the rise among young people in Kentucky. She explained that there were not enough therapists and counselors in rural communities to meet the growing needs, and said that in the aftermath of the pandemic, students were struggling with emotional well-being.

“Doing a case management model allowed us to do a needs assessment,” Dill pointed out. “And really providing comprehensive services and working with people in our rural community to tap into the services that existed and see where the service gaps existed, so that we could build on those in our program.”

Research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the state has seen a 28% increase in childhood anxiety or depression between 2016 and 2020. And recent data shows that more than one in seven Kentucky high school students said they had seriously considered suicide. If you or someone you know is going through a mental health crisis, contact the Suicide and crisis hotline by calling or texting 988 for help from a trained crisis counsellor.

Mark Thomas, superintendent of the Todd County Public School District, said the Axis program also helps students access food, clothing, housing and transportation, as well as addiction treatment.

“It’s one of those ideas of ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ We integrate that,” Thomas pointed out. “And then we also see ourselves as a family.

Allison Adams, vice president of policy at the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said Thomas was recently recognized for his efforts with a Kentucky Healthy champions Award. She added that across the state, individuals are coming up with solutions to improve their communities.

“There are opportunities to uplift the people in your communities who are working to influence health,” Adams emphasized. “Think about who this person is in your community and consider nominating them for the Healthy Kentucky Champion Class of 2023.”

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