HUDSON -- As the topic of youth mental health has come to the forefront nationally, the Hudson School District is working with the community to address the mental health of its students locally.
More than 20 community members spent their Saturday morning at Hudson High School on Feb. 15, learning about various mental health disorders as well as how to interact with a youth in crisis as part of a mental health first aid training.
“We’re not teaching them to become therapists,” state trainer Chelsea Bellville said, “but we are teaching and helping them be able to support a youth who might be experiencing a crisis.”
The two day, eight hour course was the second mental health first aid training for the community, and the district is planning to a third one in the spring.
“There’s an interest out there, and a need,” Chief of Schools Officer Erin Schiltgen said.
Each class has been made up of 30 community members.
Other community organizations have held additional training sessions.
“It really is about our community wrapping around mental health, which is awesome to see,” Schiltgen said.
The district also has provided five staff trainings, four youth mental health first aid trainings and one adult mental health first aid training for administrators. The trainings have been provided to 125 staff members, Schiltgen said. More will be done next year as well.
The training is made possible by a grant through the Department of Public Instruction, and has been hosted in partnership with the United Way.
The district is in the second year of receiving the school-based mental health grant.
“It’s really about addressing mental health needs within our schools and also about engaging the community,” Schiltgen said.
The training is one piece in a wider effort by the district to address mental health in the schools.
Schiltgen presented an update to the board at the February meeting with a full list of different efforts the district has undertaken, including staff professional development such as an anxiety depression seminar and a trauma-informed care seminar, community partnerships with organizations such as Youth Action Hudson and Healthier Together, student groups including SMATH - spreading mental health awareness through Hudson and Gay/Straight Alliance, and more.
It’s important for the district to address the issue alongside the community. School is a big part of young people's lives, but also just one part of it.
“I think it’s about all of the things that touch students, kind of focusing around kids,” she said.
The district has a mental health council made up of parents, community members, students, staff and mental health providers. They meet four times a year, and are currently planning a March event.
“It’s becoming more active,” Schiltgen said.
She said she is really proud of the students on that committee. They provide good insight on the student perspective.
“We can’t plan around kids if we’re not really involving them,” she said.
The council is motivated to continue to engage with the wider community, Schiltgen said.
Schiltgen said she feels the school is taking a well-rounded approach.
“It’s fortunate to live in a community where there’s a lot of support and resources,” she said. Though lack of mental health resources is still a problem nationwide, she said.
To evaluate where the issues stand, the district has a team of staff do mental health needs assessments and also surveys students to determine where to target planning. The focus and resources will shift based on the needs of students and staff, Schiltgen said.
The student surveys are another aspect that has changed recently. The district has expanded the number of students who receive them, down to fifth-graders.
Staff have been appreciative of the professional development opportunities that programs such as the mental health training provide.
Future efforts include a review of the school counseling program delivery models, exploration of the implementation of a more comprehensive screening practice and more.
While Schiltgen said the district is doing a lot of great things, she also said the work is never done.