MCUSA Working with Clay County Schools to Raise Mental Health Awareness

From jacksonville.com

MIDDLEBURG | The Clay County school district and local mental health agencies are partnering to discuss bullying, risky behaviors, social skills and coping techniques with students during a daylong event Tuesday at Wilkinson Junior High School.

The district’s inaugural Schoolwide Mental Health Awareness Day will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the junior high, 5025 Clay County Road 218, Middleburg.

The event titled, “From Trials to Triumph,” is part of an overall observance of May being national Mental Health Month, according to school district leaders.

The goal is to remove the stigma about discussing and acknowledging mental health struggles, and to expand access to professional help if students request it.

There will be presentations from mental health professionals, and the district will make school counselors available at the junior high for several days after the event to help ensure students have ample opportunity to talk with a trusted adult.

School district Superintendent Addison Davis said the district hopes the event will be a springboard discussion among students and parents.

“We hope this experience leads to authentic conversations with our students, encourages them to learn more about the resources for mental health, and lessens the stigma of mental illness,” Davis said.

Davis said it’s important for students to understand the importance of their mental health and well-being.

“If students know why mental health is essential to their overall health and well-being, they are better equipped to seek help when they need it and to recognize warning signs among their friends, family and classmates.”

The number of bullying complaints school by school were being compiled by district officials as of Friday but totals weren’t available.

“Right now, we are showing very low numbers for Unsubstantiated Bullying and none for Substantiated Bullying,” Nicole Snyder, school district spokeswoman, told the Times-Union.

The event is part of a comprehensive plan the district is developing “to address the needs of the whole child.”

District leaders want to expand the event to multiple schools next year, Snyder said.

“May is the national month for Mental Health Awareness, and we are planning on hosting this type of event at various school locations every year during this time,” Snyder said.

The district will be developing an online system for reporting suspected bullying behavior in the 2017-18 school year, Snyder said.

Snyder said the district chose Wilkinson Junior High for the inaugural event “in large part because of its leadership team’s vision for work related to the whole child, and their willingness to host the event in its inaugural year.”

Irene Toto, chief executive officer of Clay Behavioral Health Center Inc. lauded the upcoming event.

“When we engage in prevention and early identification, we can look for warning signs and begin the process of

providing help early,” Toto said. “The fact that Clay County school district members coordinated this event, bringing community partners together, shows how much they value students and recognize that mental health is essential to overall health.”

Toto also said by providing teachers and school personnel with additional tools to use in working with students and

families, “they are helping to make a difference for us all and increasing the odds of having healthy successful students.”

In addition, Snyder said the district is conducting a student Public Service Announcement contest about bullying prevention. The district also is launching a partnership with MCUSA based in Tampa.

Its school-based program, currently in about 200 Florida schools, is designed to help at-risk students overcome behavioral issues.

It is focused on behavioral health, wellness, and education services for youngsters, according to the program’s website.

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Written by MCUSA