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Supporting mental health initiatives for local youth

Mental health concerns have been on the rise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social isolation, combined with feelings of stress, anxiety and fear have taken a toll on everyone – even children. The American Medical Association reports a 10% rapid and sustained increase in outpatient mental health services for youth from March 2020 through February 2021. They also report increasing rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal behaviors among school-aged children and adolescents, especially girls.

The School District of Turtle Lake is working to improve the mental health of their students through an anonymous, interactive program called School Pulse. School Pulse will be operational for students in grades 6-12 in May 2022 and will provide social and emotional support using their cell phones. Security Health Plan and Marshfield Medical Center-Rice Lake are investing in this program to promote mental wellness and decrease suicide rates in young people.

“With a number of our students struggling with mental health, we knew we had to take action. We brought a therapist in to school to help, but this isn’t always the best solution if they don’t have a scheduled time or if they’re away from school. The School Pulse program will provide resources that students can use whenever they need help,” said Turtle Lake School District Superintendent Kent Kindschy.

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 apply appropriate interventions. Students can get resources to help them with depression, bullying, dealing with stress, life after high school, family relationships and more.  Educators also receive reports and actionable data to evaluate current efforts and create future interventions to help students and their families.

“If students have better mental health, they have better physical health, feel better about themselves and get better grades. Our goal is to help the child as a whole. We unfortunately experienced a suicide among our students in the past and we do not want that to ever happen again,” said Kindschy.

“Security Health Plan and Marshfield Clinic Health System have a vested interest in the overall wellbeing of our children, mental and physical,” said Security Health Plan Director of Population Health Heather Kurtz. “Programs like School Pulse play an important role in supporting students and giving them the skills to appropriately manage situations that arise throughout their life.”