OLATHE, Kan. — A metro school district is rolling out a new program to help students with mental health.
It’s one of several ways they’re working to ease anxiety that comes with start of school and everyday life.
At this point, Mayci Armstrong is used to bells ringing and lockers slamming, but she remembers the struggle of that first day as a freshman.
“So my first day, oh man, what a mess,” Armstrong said. “I was so nervous.”
Now a senior at Olathe South High School, she and the rest of “Link Crew” showed freshmen around their new home for the next four years on Wednesday. The upperclassmen help fill them in on the good food, class locations and the inside scoop.
“Okay, girls,” Armstrong said, pointing passing through the hall. “That is the best bathroom in the whole school. It’s like a hotel restroom.”
“They’re going to have an upperclassman that’s going to kind of show them the ropes,” new Olathe Public Schools staff member Tina Mcleod said, “and they’re going to be able to have that all year long. So it’s a fabulous program.”
The district isn’t stopping there. They’re introducing a new program to put student wellness advocates in each of the five high schools in Olathe.
“This is something that is brand new, and we’re really excited about it that the district has allocated funds for these positions,” said Angie Salava, director of social, emotional, learning and mental health services. “They are not grant positions. They are permanent positions.”
Salava said data shows their students need help in areas of mental health. She noted that the suicide protocol was put to the test more than 500 times last year — and used in every single grade including Pre-K.
“We know that having that resource on site, it removes the barriers of time, transportation, and even money that can prevent some parents from seeking that help for their students,” she said.
That’s where advocates like Mcleod come in.
She’s one of five licensed therapists working for the district to provide individual and group counseling for students dealing with feelings like anxiety and depression.
“In general, I think that we want to give students a language to be able to communicate what they’re feeling and what their needs are,” Mcleod said. “We want to provide a safe environment and let them know that they have someone to talk to and they have supports.”
As Mcleod works to guide students through life, Armstrong is helping them navigate the halls — both equally important.
“I just like to help them relax a little bit because I know how scary it can be,” Armstrong said.
These mental health professionals will not only be in the high schools, but will also be available to schools in every feeder pattern to help students.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.
Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
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This content was originally published here.