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Back to School Can be Tough for Students with Mental Health Challenges - New Online Resources from Rogers InHealth Aim to Help

Aug. 21, 2014

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – For students facing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bi-polar, the stresses and challenges of a new school year can be magnified if they find themselves in school environments, working with teachers, or interacting with friends and family members that are not supportive.

According to Sue McKenzie, co-director Rogers InHealth, a department of Rogers Behavioral System which has treatment facilities in Oconomowoc, Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha and Brown Deer, “Approximately 20 percent of all children would benefit from mental health services, yet only 1/5 (or 20 percent) of them receive help. For those who don’t, the untreated mental disorders are likely to persist, become more severe, difficult to treat, and as a result, approximately 50 percent of students age 14 and older who are living with a mental illness drop out of high school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group. These statistics are particularly troubling when we know that children who receive effective services go on to find success at school, with family and friendships, and that carries into their future.”

Rogers InHealth has recognized the need to decrease the stigma of and increase the support for students and families dealing with mental health challenges, so they can effectively move from illness to recovery. The organization has created a series of brief videos that highlight stories of recovery and strategies that youth, parents and educators have found to work in the face of mental health challenges. The video clips were created to empower families and teachers as they support children with mental health challenges.

The schools tab of the Rogers InHealth website, http://www.rogersinhealth.org/schools, directs the visitor to specific social media based video content. The brief videos share personal stories of students in recovery, as well as effective support practices of parents and teachers. The site also has “reality videos” of strategies used in classrooms in MPS where teachers support children in their learning every day.

McKenzie says, “While navigating school and health systems to get support for children’s mental health challenges can be tough, everyone involved needs to realize that hopeful outcomes are a reality when parents, schools, therapists and the child work together. These personal stories constantly reinforce this message. The relationship is number one! Second is the team that works together to learn how to best support the child’s resiliency.”

The premise of the social media site is founded upon the evidence-based work of international stigma researcher, Patrick Corrigan, Illinois Institute of Technology. His research revealed personal contact with a person living in recovery with mental illness is the most effective means to diminishing stigma, demonstrating that it is contact, more than knowledge that increases positive attitudes and supportive behaviors.

McKenzie adds the collaboration stories on the site help to reinforce why talking to your child’s school or connecting with your child’s therapist is a good idea. One story on the website,(http://rogersinhealth.org/resources/marisa), highlights Marisa, who began cutting herself in high school. She knew something was wrong but was afraid to speak to her parents. Attending school was difficult because of her overwhelming feelings. She finally confided in a coach that she didn't want to die but didn't want to live her whole life like she currently was. With help from therapist, medication, school accommodations, parental support, she found recovery. Now an adult, Marisa is a kindergarten teacher and applies the wisdom from her own experience to connect with children and help parents consider how to best support their children.

Suzette Urbashich, co-director with McKenzie, adds, “We have to all work together to eliminate the stigma that discourages individuals and families challenged by mental illness from seeking treatment and support for recovery. This site has the potential to help many if they utilize it. Stigma impacts productivity in schools, the workforce, and community health. Without treatment, consequences of mental illness for individuals and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, diminished educational attainment, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and suicide. The economic cost of untreated mental illness in the US is more than 100 billion dollars annually.”

For more information on Rogers InHealth or to view more stories visit: http://rogersinhealth.org/resources/stories or please contact Sue McKenzie at smckenzie@rogershospital.org or 414-759-3374.

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