Paula Frehner is a mental health and behavior specialist who is on The Daily Dish today talking about a new school year. After a very tough year, for so many students in Northern Utah and of course in Southern Utah, Southwest Prevention has a program that just started that’s helping with kid’s mental health.
The MHAP program is a mental health assistance program that has been set up to assist any student in the Washington County school district. This program allows students to have five free sessions of therapy and it’s a soft handoff from the school counselor to the therapist and the great part about all of it is that any student can go and the sessions are FREE. Students have several ways that they can be serviced. There is the option of telehealth which is in the home through the internet or they offer to be able to go to the therapist’s offices and finally, they also have CJC they’ve partnered with that can actually come out to the schools and help.
On a day to day basis, a student or a counselor notices that a student might not be doing well or they come in and say I’m not doing well, then the counselor talks with them and assesses the situation, they will then reach out to the parents and ask if they can refer them to use therapy services and then the first five sessions are free because it’s funded by a mental health grant from the state.
Last year, there were 340 students who took advantage of this program which didn’t get up and going until December which is only approximately a six-month window. For the 2021-2022 school year they really hope to expand on the services available and get any student that is in need of services to come in and talk. This service is available for elementary and intermediate kids also.
Last year they had 139 Elementary-aged kids and 90 intermediates, in the middle-aged group they had 45 and 55 in the high schools! Their goal is to reach out to all students to break the stigma of asking for help when it comes to mental health. This is why they’re passionate about doing a soft handoff to let people know you don’t need to suffer in silence and if you have any issues with your mental health they have a way to help you. They have support available!
Another exciting thing about this program is a lot of these students that took advantage of these programs were males which is huge because it’s important that men AND women know you can talk about your emotions, you can get the mental help that you need. It doesn’t need to be just females because historically males are not seeking mental health help
With COVID, Southwest Prevention is seeing a lot of kids withdrawing or isolating, They’re not eating right, they’re sleep patterns are also off. They’ve changed friends or withdrawn from friends and they’re not talking to their parents anymore. The previous connections that kids have had have dissipated and they’re seeing a lot of kids with anxiety and depression. If parents are seeing these types of behaviors in their kids, it would be worth reaching out and getting support.
Many children may say they don’t want that type of support because it’s traditionally been a stigma in mental health right now. If that’s the case, you might want to encourage them to work with their school counselor and learn that it’s okay to trust a professional with your feelings and your emotions and the importance of getting the help you need. Southwest prevention hopes that the trust will build into more so children will learn it’s okay to trust a therapist also.
In addition to children getting the mental health help that they need, Southwest Prevention has also seen an increase in Families that are going to therapy together. This is creating positive impacts on the entire family and communities. It might start off with the referral of one student and end up helping an entire household that ends up learning important skills that are helpful for everyone.
For more information, people can reach out to their school counselors as that is where all the referrals are coming from. If the school counselors feel like they can’t do that they can reach out to the principal or anybody else on the school administrative team, even at the district office would be happy to help them.
If you would like more information about Southwest Prevention, please visit their website.