A group of educators, mental health advocates and Idaho parents have suggested 30 ways in which Idaho schools could better address the mental health of young people, ranging from universal mental health tests for children to “Helplines” for educators.
The recommendations emerged from a series of virtual meetings that State Department of Education Commitment and Student Safety Coordinator Eric Studebaker held this spring, with about 75 stakeholders in the field. of health and education.
Idaho’s need to support young people’s mental health is extensive, urgent, and inflamed by COVID-19, but students ’access to services varies from district to district. The SDE conducted its first mental health support survey in local school districts last year, and then brought together the stakeholder group to make recommendations on how Idaho should move forward.
Studebaker plans to present recommendations from state Superintendent Sherri Ybarra this summer. The group has one more meeting in late May to refine the proposals before Studebaker brings the ideas to SDE’s leadership. Studebaker anticipates that the recommendations will report on a work plan that the department could publish this fall.
The first draft of recommendations includes:
- Statewide resource creation, including: a current social-emotional learning dashboard, a resource page that shows which communities offer what services, a district learning community working in mental health, and a statewide student / family assistance program.
- Increase the number of workers and social counselors in schools and fund these places in rural districts.
- Use universal mental health controllers to help identify students who need more support.
- Increase mental health support for educators, perhaps through “helplines” or confidential counseling.
- Increase district associations with or among mental health agencies to share services.
- Use of student-led messages about mental health.
- Provide continuing education to educators on trauma-based practices.
Studebaker said he does not plan to reduce the recommendations to a select few, but will give them the same weight and allow the SDE executive team to set priorities.
“It’s much better than I could have done,” Studebaker said of the recommendations. “I was grateful that so many people gave their time.”
To learn more about Idaho’s approach to youth mental health, read this Idaho EdNews series about how districts deal with student anxiety and depression across the state.
About Sami Edge
Journalist Sami Edge, a graduate of the University of Oregon, joined the Idaho Education News in 2019. It is a 2019 Education Writers Association scholarship that reports on the results of Latino students in Idaho. She is also a Fellow of the American Press Institute since 2019. You can contact her at [email protected].
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