(Posted Feb. 15, 2022)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Jefferson Local Schools has a school nurse to administer to the physical needs of students. The district also addresses the mental health needs of its students with access to OhioGuidestone counselors throughout the school day.
The district contracted with the company last year and brought OhioGuidestone counselor John Mohn on board this year to oversee the in-house program and work with three clinical interns to provide school based, out-patient mental health services.
“We provide talk therapy in addition to therapeutic behavioral services,” Mohn explained at the Feb. 14 school board meeting.
According to Mohn, one sixth of youth ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder, and half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14.
Since Mohn began working within the Jefferson Local system at the beginning of the year, students in 12th grade have received 340 hours of mental health services. In the seventh grade, students received 185 hours; ninth-graders received 120 hours; 10th-graders received 90 hours; and eighth-graders received 15 hours.
Anxiety and depression each account for a third of the cases served by the OhioGuidestone counseling staff, with conduct, eating disorders and trauma making up another 11 percent.
“Eighty percent of students receiving services at this school (high and middle school buildings) experienced suicide ideations,” Mohn said. “Twenty percent (of that number) had a suicide plan.”
When asked by Superintendent William Mullett what could be a primary cause of anxiety in youth—such as COVID-19—Mohn said anxiety is a much broader concern than COVID-19 itself.
“A lot of children come from a fractured home unit,” he said. “While the pandemic has magnified these issues, it is not the cause.
“Statistically speaking, a large majority of my clientele come from fractured homes. Fifteen percent are in foster care here.”
More than half of students receiving OhioGuidestone services also receive psychiatric services and, when necessary, counselors actively connect students to outside services.
Mohn said students can be referred for services by a district guidance counselor, teacher or parent or through a consult. Some even seek out support for themselves. Every child involved in the program has access to a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mohn recently started offering an informal discussion period after school for staff members as well.
“This is something we’ve never had to this extent and, more than ever, it is needed,” Mullett said.