September marks the end of summer and for many families, the beginning of a new school year. In addition to new routines, homework, and extra-curricular activities, school safety is on the minds of students, parents, and educators. In light of school shootings across the country, even right here in Texas, the need for robust school-based mental health programs has never been more pressing.
One in five children suffers from a mental health or learning disorder and 80% of chronic mental disorders begin in childhood. With more than 82,000 students enrolled in the Austin Independent School District (AISD), educators are on the front lines of caring for the youth in our community.
Last week we invited leaders from AISD to share their insights into the needs, opportunities, and challenges of mental health services in our schools. This discussion is part of our monthly panel series, Austin Area Funders, which is a group of charitable foundations and funders that meet regularly to discuss our community's most pressing needs.
Here are our top three takeaways from Tuesday's event:
- Holistic support is key: Mental health care for students expands well beyond counseling services at the individual level. Leaders at AISD work to create a positive and healthy environment for students in every interaction. From parents to teachers, mental health services are approachable and visible to anyone that touches a child's life.
- Break down stigmas: The conversation around mental health is shifting and so are our attitudes. Instead of conversations that start by asking "What's wrong with you?," we're shifting to a state of understanding and acceptance to truly build trust with students.
- Innovation matters: Caring for students is not a new idea, but school-based mental health care is a new concept. By working with key leaders from across the district, teams have been able to innovate faster and provide a deeper commitment to the whole child, on an academic level and beyond.
Thank you again to our panelists and attendees for your work and support in our community. Keep up with AISD's School Mental Health Centers at austinisd.org/student-health/mental-health.
Are you part of a Foundation interested in attending our next Austin Area Funders event? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on our October session!
Our September panelists included (from left to right):
Executive Director, AISD Office of Innovation & Development
Director, AISD Health Services
Dr. Teri Wood
Coordinator, AISD Trust-Based Relational Intervention
Director, AISD Social & Emotional Learning