Jordan School District prioritizing mental health for students and staff
May 12, 2023, 11:03 AM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 1:59 pm
WEST JORDAN, Utah — In 2021, 3-in-5 teen girls said they felt persistently sad and hopeless, and more than 1-in-4 girls reported they seriously considered attempting suicide — up significantly since 2011.
Those statistics are from an alarming report published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting increased sadness and mental distress among teen girls, LGBTQ+ youth and minority groups.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, KSL is highlighting solution-based efforts here in Utah to help our youth.
McKinley Withers, health and wellness director for the Jordan School District, says they’re taking a proactive approach in prioritizing mental health.
“They need tools to actually help them problem solve, to have healthy relationships, to navigate their own emotional landscape,” he said.”Because, I mean, there isn’t a kid that doesn’t need those skills.”
Withers says every school in the district has a mental health professional on campus, including elementary schools with a full-time school psychologist and counselor.
Secondary schools have a team of counselors at a ratio of one to every 350 students. They’ve also partnered with 19 mental health providers in the community.
“If people from our schools identify a kid who’s of significant concern, we facilitate access to our community providers through that partnership, so they can also get mental health services outside of school,” Withers said.
The Jordan School District also introduced a “health & wellness day” last year. Classes are canceled, and students are provided a wellness curriculum to review with their parents — focusing on the importance of sleep, exercise, light exposure, social interaction and nutrition.
Withers says they want to send a message loud and clear to students that their mental health matters.
“There’s no way to learn effectively if you’re not functioning,” Withers said. “There’s no way to do your best work or be your best self if you’re not doing well. So I think wellness is the foundation of learning.”
The district also provides activities for their teachers to care for their mental well-being, like pickleball, art classes, cooking lessons and yoga.
“There are so many examples of people just expressing this was exactly what we needed. this, this came at the right time,” Withers said.
Withers hopes this day helps both their students and staff develop tools to care for their bodies and minds.
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.
- SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-33888)
- SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
- SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
- Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.
Other community-based resources
- NAMI Utah provides education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental illness.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers prevention programs, public education, support for loss survivors, and fundraising for research.
- Encircle Utah: LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center.
- Utah Pride Center empowers Utah’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.
- The Trevor Project: LGBTQ teen resource center.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health
- Latino Behavioral Health Services
- Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers.