Schools rich with mental health resources for struggling parentsMar 07, 2023 04:36PM ● By Jet Burnham
Jordan District has prioritized reducing the workload of school counselors to better serve students and their families. (Stock photo courtesy Unsplash)
Your teenager has no friends and clams up when you ask what’s wrong. Your child cries every morning before school. Your child’s friend tells you that your child has been talking about suicide.
Many parents don’t know what to do in these situations to help their child. They may not realize that their child’s school has free resources that can help.
“If you have a child that is struggling, I would recommend that you work with your school counselor,” Jordan School District Counselor Consultant Stacee Worthen said. “Schedule an appointment, talk about your concerns.”
Jordan District has prioritized reducing the workload of school counselors to better serve students and their families. Secondary schools have between 250 and 305 students assigned to one counselor, well below the state average of 350:1. Every Jordan District school has a full-time psychologist and either a licensed social worker or mental health professional. Most secondary schools have all three.
Students can meet regularly with school mental health professionals with parental permission.
“Our goal really is to work with the parents and the students together to really see what's going on,” Worthen said. “We always want parents to understand our job is to support the parents so that we can support the students. We're never going to do something without looping in that parent and making sure that this is something that they feel is in the best interest of their child, because parents are that first safety net, and then we're just trying to provide additional safety nets to help and support so that child can be successful.”
One parent said she received help from the school counselor who worked with her high school-aged child to address some anxiety.
“She worked with my child and then had me come in at the end and tell me what I could do to support my child,” she said.
If it is determined that a child would benefit from regular therapy, the school mental health team works with the family to develop a Mental Health Access Plan. The district will cover the costs of the first eight visits with a private practice therapist. A member of the school’s mental health team will assist with finding a therapist that meets the family’s needs and even help coordinate the insurance.
Jordan District’s wellness webpage is a rich resource for parents and students, providing crisis support talk or text numbers as well as helpful tips and informative articles. A link to a local community mental health provider spreadsheet is provided to help parents easily find a private practice therapist for their child or themselves.
JSD has a partnership with the Cook Center for Human Connection which provides many mental health resources, and parents of JSD students can access free parent coaching, parenting classes and support through Parentguidance.org.
Another resource for families is Jordan District’s Family Education Center, located in South Jordan, which offers free classes for students and parents. Classes address topics such as anger management, parenting skills, divorce, anxiety, addiction and social skills. Families can also access free counseling and a lending library of over 1,000 helpful books. For more information visit guidance.jordandistrict.org/jfec/ or call 801-565-7442.
In addition to district resources, some passionate staff members from Herriman High School, which experienced a rash of student suicide deaths in 2017, have developed their own programs which support parents with struggling children.
Herriman High School psychologist Casey Pehrson Ed.S., NCSP developed a presentation and children’s book that addresses self-care habits. Her S.E.L.F.I.E. method, which is backed by research, provides simple and practical daily habits of self-care that improve energy and mood.
“The practical takeaway when they walk out of here is that they’ll feel, ‘I can do this, I can actually take this to go and it will help me,’” Pehrson said.
Pehrson has taught the S.E.L.F.I.E. method at various professional conferences and community events. The next free presentation will be held Mar. 23 6:30 to7:30 p.m. at Elk Ridge Middle School. Attendance is open to everyone.
“We came because we have a child who is struggling with some emotions and stuff,” said a mother who attended Pehrson’s presentation at Copper Hills High in January. “And so we thought we’d try to pick up some tips to help this child. It was helpful. I really liked it a lot.”
Earlier this year, Herriman High counselor Cindy Watkins M.Ed., CMHC taught a Proactive Parenting series of classes to empower parents with skills to help them improve their children’s emotional health.
“So much of the time we as adults are reactive rather than proactive with our children and their emotional health,” Watkins said. “The Proactive Parenting workshops were to teach the parents skills that they could implement to navigate away from reactive parenting towards proactive parenting by modeling and teaching their children effective skills and habits to manage their day-to-day emotional health.”
One parent said she attended the classes to learn how to help her children who struggle with anxiety. She said the information was very helpful.
“It was all very practical tips, which I loved, because that’s what, as a parent, I need,” she said.
David Kozlowski, a Herriman High teacher and licensed therapist, hosts the Light The Fight podcast to help parents build, maintain and improve relationships with their children. He gave a TED Talk on the same topic. His website has details about his parent-teen partnership program and parenting seminars.
Worthen said there are new resources, parenting classes and information about free mental health screenings being posted on Jordan District’s website and social media all the time. She encourages parents to check often.
“I just encourage parents, when they're worried about their children, you can always reach out to the schools,” she said. “They want to be a resource; they want to help. They're there to help support the student and the parent and work together as a team to try and see what resources we can help find together to help their child. Don't be afraid to reach out, don't be afraid to call. Just go to the website and look at all the resources that are available.”
Additional online resources for parents and children who are struggling with mental health:
To text or talk to a licensed therapist 24/7: text or dial 788 for the Utah Crisis Line, text or dial 988 for the National Crisis Line, text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.
SafeUT app: a child or parent can connect with a licensed clinician about depression, anxiety, suicide prevention, bullying and life challenges or to anonymously report an at-risk student.
Helpful articles for parents can be found at safeut.org/parents, LiveOnUtah.org, seizetheawkward.org, and Upliftfamilies.org