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Local schools tackling youth mental health crisis

(KVLY)
Published: Dec. 13, 2017 at 5:44 PM CST
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A new study says, 1 in 5 children have a mental health disorder and only 20% are actually diagnosed.

It's another example of what officials are calling a mental health crisis. Our local schools are noticing the problem and tackling it, head on.

"Some are experiencing anxiety, depression, and some are having a hard time focusing in school. Learning is hard for them," says Fargo Public Schools Student & Parent Wellness Facilitator, Amy Riccio.

These are the things teachers are seeing every day. In fact, nearly half of mental illness cases begin at age 14, and about 80% of those are not receiving any treatment.

This is a real dilemma for the schools. The problem is so serious, 18 schools in the area were in Fargo on Wednesday. They spoke about what can be done in the future.

"Right now it does come to the school and it looks like a school issue. It's really a community issue," says Riccio.

So how are schools attacking this? They have a weapon called ReThink Mental Health. This initiative is all about really understanding what the student's going through.

"This is to look deeper and understand what the reasoning is behind or what happened to this child that had them make this decision. We are working to break this chain," says Ben Franklin Middle School Principal, John Nelson.

They say there has been a lack of empathy, especially towards middle-school aged students. By emphasizing this need in schools, they are hoping it will help with this mental health crisis.

"When kids need it the most, we say 'you should know better, you should know how to do that, you can do better.' Some of this is fostered in a variety of different environments but we need to step back and always teach," says Riccio.

This is just the beginning of this new approach, and they know it will take some time. But in the end, they are hoping this will positively impact students and give them the motivation they need to succeed.

So how can you tell if your child is suffering from a mental illness? We have some suggestions from the experts. They say, if your child has patterns of changes in behaviors and difficulty concentrating on tasks, these could be signs of depression.

For a full list, you can visit the CDC’s link here: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html.