BEAVERTON, Ore. — More than 35% of high school students say they have struggled with mental health because of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an effort to help high-need students this school year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Washington County has teamed up with the Beaverton School District to make sure families know they’re not alone and to give them tools to help students going through a tough time.
The Beaverton School District, like so many others, has students, families and staff that are struggling to either cope with or address mental health issues.
Data from the district shows as of March 15, 2022 staff have completed 646 suicide screenings as compared to 403 at the same time in 2020.
The increased need in schools is reflected at the community level too.
“Demand has grown,” said Dave Mowry, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Washington County.
Mowry said NAMI and the district began working together right before the pandemic hit. He said NAMI had conducted a mental health training for staff, but had to put a pause on activities due to COVID. Now with restrictions lifted, they have picked up where they left off. After seeing the increased need, the district and NAMI came together to offer a free six-session education program for Beaverton School District parents, caregivers and family members who care for children and teens dealing with mental health issues.
“It's the first time we are doing it for parents of school-aged youth specifically,” said Mowry.
“By reaching out to the families, they [NAMI staff] are reaching youth with mental health challenges.”
The idea is to make sure families are equipped with an understanding of the biology of mental health challenges and have information on how to prepare for crises as well as available treatment options. Mowry said families also need to know they're not alone.
“The most important piece of that is we're telling stories. Parents tell their stories. Kids tell their stories […] the stories are powerful,” Mowry said.
According to a Beaverton School District Facebook post, the six-session education program starts May 16 and will be conducted over Zoom. The post also has details on how to register.
Mowry said if there isn’t space, NAMI of Washington County plans to hold more educational programs for families in the district.
He also said they’re in talks to continue their partnership with the district next year.
Mowry was keen to add that NAMI of Washington County does presentations and helps people all over the county. For people who live elsewhere, he said NAMI has branches in other counties as well. So, people who are interested in getting mental health help or information can reach out to the NAMI group in their county.