Greene looking at student mental health within schools

CARROLLTON — The Greene County Health Department will be working with the three county school districts to help create programs that address mental health issues for students and staff. 

Health Department Administrator Molly Peters said the department received a grant to help fund programs and projects to address mental health in the Carrollton School District. 

Though the grant is for Carrollton, she said the health department has created a board of members from all the districts and communities to develop programs that can be used across the county. 

“We convened a council to discuss programs and projects that will help find solutions in addressing mental health,” Peters said. “We are trying to reduce the stigma around student mental health.”

Peters said the council has only met a few times, however there were a lot of ideas that have been presented, such as creating safe spaces, or zen dens, as well as providing places students can go to receive help. 

The zen dens would be a space where a student who is experiencing a mental health issue can go to calm down, relax and try to recenter. From there, they can find help. 

“Having these programs and spaces available to students will hopefully help improve the lack of seeking help or treatment,” Peters said. 

While addressing student mental health, Peters said the council is also looking at the mental health of staff members as well. 

She said she hopes to see schools implement programs like what the health department has done to help improve the morale and mental health of their staff, which would also, in turn, help the students. 

The health department has been creating an inviting environment. 

Though the grant will not provide funding for longer positions like a counselor, she said she hopes the programs being developed will be a start for the district. 

The council is looking at short term programs that will help in the long term. For examples, Peters said they are looking at providing mental health first aid training to staff members of each district that will help them learn how to respond to episodes of mental illness. 

“One of the biggest things is communication, and this will give them the tools to help,” Peters said. “We need to empower people to ask questions.”

Peters said the programs implemented through the grant for Carrollton will hopefully be implemented in other schools. 

“The prevention council can help expand the thoughts and ideas of each district,” Peters said. “They can brain storm plans and see what is and isn’t working. If they share these strategies, they can improve overall.”