Mental health crisis prompts CCSD policy change Outreach services for teens are increasing in the district due to previous lack of aid

Mental health among teens has been a growing concern. With Care Solace's new outreach program, teens can have a new connection to health services. “I am just the person you can come to if you need help and they have hotlines,” Thomas said. “But for many students, it's the home, the parents would have to be the ones with that extra support so that students feel like they want to live. I can change a little bit, but it would have come from the family.” Photo Credit: Gurleen Swaich
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Trigger Warning: Mentions of Suicide and Mental Health Issues

Within one year, 20 students were lost

High school is notorious for being hard on students’ mental health. Within the last year the number of student suicides has more than doubled. In hopes to combat this increasing number, the first social worker at SWCTA has been hired.

“Mental health has definitely been neglected in CCSD in general, which is shocking considering it’s Las Vegas,” junior Aniley Garcia said. “All sorts of addictions and mental health problems are present here. You can see the way it’s present with the way some of our teachers react to certain situations and whether or not they accommodate you. I’ve had teachers who used public humiliation as a way to teach at the time I had severe social anxiety.”

For mental health care coordination, CCSD has partnered with Care Solace. Their highly specialized “Care Companions” schedule appointments within days for students, staff, and families in need.

“This new service gives our school-based mental health providers another tool to help students struggling with mental health,” CCSD Superintendent Jesus F. Jara said in a press release. “Care Solace provides our students and staff with a streamline process to find mental health providers.”

Dr. Jara and Chad Castruita, founder and CEO of Care Solace, are confident in finding a way to efficiently make students comfortable when it comes to confronting their mental health.

“The return to in-person learning and the lasting effects of loss and grief pose new challenges for staff and families in the 2021-22 school year,” Castruita said in the same press release. “We are proud to support CCSD in prioritizing the well-being of its school community by providing timely access into mental health care and substance use treatment services.”

However, some teachers and students of CCSD are skeptical of their plan’s effectiveness, and believe little will change.

“Due to the amount of students that are attending, some mentally unstable people could slip through the cracks. I think mental health is ignored without a doubt,” junior Vanessa Thou said. “Some schools are old fashioned where they have a mindset of expectations that the student has to uphold. I came from magnet schools who are believed to be full of students that are talented in math and science. Sure, I got A’s and B’s in it, but that doesn’t mean I excel at it. Those expectations are too stressful on me and make me doubt every assignment that I do.”

Care Solace’s main goal is to connect students and families to mental health programs. Part of this plan is hiring social workers at CCSD schools, like Bre Auna Thomas.

“I think in the years past they kind of sweeped under the rug and they called it the ‘blues’ or a ‘bad day,’ but now people are starting to identify what depression looks like [and] this is what anxiety looks like,” Thomas said. “There is more overall awareness about it. But everything starts from the home.”

As more students learn about the new social worker, the hope is that students feel comfortable talking to adults in order to make a change in their mental health.

“As someone who’s struggled with mental health throughout high school, I’ve never felt safe enough to talk to the ‘provided’ adults,” student Jane Doe* said. “I’ve always thought that teachers would call my parents if I told them the truth, but Ms. Thomas actually takes patient confidentiality seriously. She is currently the only adult here I feel comfortable talking to and I’m really thankful for that. I feel like she came at the right time for me.”

*Names have been chosen to protect student confidentiality

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

SafeVoice: 1-833-216-SAFE (7233) for anonymous reporting

Do you intend on working with the new social worker?