MARSHFIELD – “Our hope is that we talk about mental health when someone is feeling overwhelmed or alone. We want there to be an open line of communication and for students to know there are plenty of caring adults that are willing to help,” said Tonya Klabon, teacher and AODA coordinator at the School District of Abbotsford.
Mental health concerns have been on the rise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation and feelings of stress, anxiety and fear have taken a toll on everyone – even children. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in May 2020, 29% of U.S. parents said their child was experiencing mental or emotional health distress. By October 2020, 31% of parents said their child’s mental or emotional health was worse than before the pandemic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also reports 1 in 6 children age 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
The School District of Abbotsford is working to improve the mental health of their students through an interactive program called School Pulse. School Pulse will be operational in January 2022 and will provide students with social and emotional support using their cell phones. Security Health Plan and Marshfield Clinic Health System are investing in this program to promote mental wellness and decrease suicide rates in young people.
The School Pulse program uses texting to check in with students about their mental health three times a week – all year long. Students who wish to participate in the program will receive real-time help through open, anonymous communication through a platform that works just like texting. Messages are inspirational, informative and collect answers to students’ questions. The school will use the data to determine students’ needs and develop appropriate interventions. Students can get resources to help them with depression, bullying, dealing with stress, life after high school, family relationships and more.
“With an increased focus on mental health initiatives and emotional learning objectives, a proactive approach to reach students and identify those that may need extra support is critical,” explained Klabon.
“Our goal is to provide students access to mental health tools to help them cope and navigate through situations that arise,” said Klabon. “As a district, we want to provide students with access to care, recognizing when they need to ask for help, coping skills, and knowing what to do in these situations. We want our students to know they are not alone.”
Using the School Pulse platform, educators receive reports and actionable data to evaluate current efforts and create future interventions to help students and their families.
“School Pulse will not only help students, it will help educate families about mental health and the resources available to them during a crisis. Additionally, it promotes continued partnership building within the community and between school and home,” said Klabon.