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Easing the Pain of Mental Health Issues for Students
Posted 2/16/22

Recent headlines about increasing mental health issues paint a concerning picture -- especially for children and teens. According to experts, there has been a sharp increase in reports of youth that are struggling with mental health — and depression, anxiety and suicide are on the rise. As a district of more than 16,450 students, NVUSD is keenly aware of this disturbing trend and has responded by investing even more in health and wellness resources.

 

Support in Many Forms

According to Kristin Nelson, Coordinator of Student Wellness & Support at NVUSD, “School communities are a critical cornerstone to serving and supporting our youth  – and that includes their mental health.” 

 

In 2020-2021, NVUSD increased support across all elementary, middle and high schools by increasing staffing and establishing partnerships. Thanks to relief funds, grants, and funding from the Napa Valley Education Foundation, we were able to add mental health counselors, social workers, interns and school therapists. In addition, NVUSD implemented a new universal SDQ screener – an evidence-based behavioral screener that identifies students who may need intervention or support and at what level. We conducted this confidential questionnaire with every student at every school site, which helped us assess individual needs. Explained Ms. Nelson, “What’s most exciting about the SDQ screener is that we are integrating it annually into our regular assessment practices so it will be an ongoing tool to assess and support the mental health needs of our students.”

 

Wellness Centers at Every Middle School

Since 2014, NVUSD has operated the Wellness Program which is a partnership between schools and community partners to support health, well-being and academic success of students at every age. NVUSD Wellness Centers are located at Napa and American Canyon middle schools, providing psychologists, social workers, school counselors as well as physical space for students at any time of day. In addition, the district offers free support through Care Solace, and has integrated social emotional learning practices and curriculum across all grade levels.

 

We All Play a Role in Mental Health

"Protecting youth mental health is everyone's job," said Sarah Knox, NVUSD's Director of Prevention & Intervention. "From parents to principals to teachers to the lunch staff, everyone helps create a safe, caring environment where mental health problems aren’t stigmatized."

 

According to the school site wellness teams, these efforts have truly made a difference - and the timing couldn't be more critical with the many societal pressures in our world today -- from the rise of digital media and screen time to broader societal issues such as rising income inequality, civil unrest, gun violence, climate change, and a global pandemic. 

 

“With the right systems and people in place, schools can take a big step forward when it comes to supporting their students,” said Ms. Knox. “And most important of all is to educate openly and talk about it.”

 

Please visit nvusd.org for more information, including mental health resources, free suicide prevention support, and more.