November 23, 2021

Students Call For Increased Mental Health Awareness At District 204

Neuqua Valley High School students pointed to multiple student tragedies as they called for increased mental health awareness at a recent Indian Prairie School District 204 board meeting.

Student Mental Health Concerns

Neuqua senior Peter Shewman noted several students in the district, including at his own school, had died by suicide this year. He and five other students spoke at the meeting, asking for enhancements to the school’s counseling programs.

“We need more funding to go to the mental health programs, we need more counselors who are qualified to deal with these issues,” Neuqua junior Lucas Lombana Arias said.  “Three counselors per grade to deal with 900 students is not enough.  Our school is hurting right now.”

Students also requested an increase in counselors trained to focus on student mental health, rather than academic resources.  And some noted pressure to keep up with fast lesson plans and high standards of academic excellence as a major stressor.

“The material just goes so fast, and it’s so rushed, that some of us students hate missing school, because we feel like one day is a whole week,” Neuqua senior Sarina Diaz said.

Improvements Planned

District Superintendent Dr. Adrian Talley responded directly to the students after they spoke, providing some insight to how the school is working to improve its mental health resources.

“Our schools currently have mental health professionals within the buildings,” Talley said.  “However, I know what the students are saying; the issue is we don’t have as many as we should have.  This is a national issue, one that has been around for several years as we continue to struggle to find additional psychologists, social workers, and others with the skillsets.”

Current district resources include guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, social emotional learning coaches at Title 1 buildings, and a mental health coordinator at each high school.  The district also teaches mental health education in physical education and health classes, and provides a list of mental health resources on its website.

The list includes multiple crisis hotlines, a mental health professional referral system, and various mental health tips and explainers.

Talley said the district wants to use a “three-pronged approach” to address student mental health.  That means working together with staff, students, and the community to improve conditions.

A District 204 spokesperson said in an email “The district is considering more parent education, increased professional learning, increased partnerships with mental health agencies, and increased services for our students.”

Naperville News 17’s Casey Flanagan reports.

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