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Granton plans Dec. 6 event to connect families with mental health help

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, more awareness has been raised about the importance of mental health, especially among adolescents. Since that time, schools across the country have been in the process of adding mental health supports for their students to help them both in the short term and in the years to come. In the Granton School District, the school will be holding a mental health day on Dec. 6 for all its students, allowing them to talk to and listen to several presentations to help them find the support they need.

Earlier this year, schools were given extra funding through the Get Kids Ahead Initiative grant program from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of helping kids of all ages get mental health support. Granton Schools K-12 principal Amanda Kraus said schools were given the option to receive the funds and the school is now using those funds to put on this event for their students.

“Every school in the state had the option of taking part in the grant,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of schools did and we didn’t have to apply, the DPI put it out there to help build a comprehensive school mental health system.”

On Dec. 6, Kraus said the school will have several speakers present on the campus for both students and teachers to listen to. The main keynote speaker for the day will by Cory Greenwood, who will give a presentation to K-5 students on the subject of kindness in the morning, 6-12 graders on “Your Story Matters” in the afternoon, and a final program at 6 p.m. for all community members.

During the rest of the day, Kraus said the students will have to an opportunity to connect with mental health professionals from Clark, Wood, and Marathon counties. In the weeks leading up to the event, she said the students took a survey to choose four programs to take part in, allowing them to find speakers that would best relate to them and the struggles they face. Shelly Schmitz, the school’s student counselor, said the school staff will also be taking part in the sessions throughout the day, also getting the option to choose programs that will best help them as well. “We have several sessions on different aspects of mental health,” said Kraus. “Students have the option of choosing different sessions, they have four they can choose to be a part of. This is bringing in people to talk to the kids. Shelly is great, but she is just one person. They do this every day, and they can chat with the kids to help them out.”

The programs that both students and teachers have the option to take part in on Dec. 6 will be: It’s Up To Me, with Krissy Ackbar; Anxiety, with NAMI and Linda Froehlich; Kind Mind: Create Your Toolkit, with Alison Heintz and Kayla Rochester; The Brain: Gratitude and Resiliency, with Kathleen Wesolowski from CW Solutions; Choose Healthy: YMCA, Yoga, with Rachel Charron; Talking About Mental Health With Your Friends, with Rachel Charron; How to Respond to Crisis, with Jeremiah Bogdonovich and Rebecca Griesen; Swing Into Social Media, with Jesse Schwingle; Relationship Rules, with Madi from PDC; and Vaping and Tobacco: How it Really Affects Your Body, with Dylan Baxter. While they will not be present at the evening event, Kraus said materials will be made available from these speakers for community members to take home for their own use.

While the event is only for one day, both Kraus and Schmitz said the importance of the event should be stressed. By bringing in these speakers, they said students are able to access resources they may not otherwise be aware of in Clark County and the surrounding areas, services that will not go away even after the program is over. “This is allowing the school to create connections to providers in Clark County, in Wood County and in Marathon County and helping us create those connections to let people know what services are out there,” said Kraus.

For the students, Schmitz said mental health can be a complicated thing and hopes that students taking part in the day’s events will get help in whatever ways they need. From overcoming the stigma associated with taking care of one’s mental health to recognizing when someone needs help, she said there are many ways she hopes the students are able to learn from the speakers and the resources they will provide.

“One thing we hope comes out of this day is for the kids to be able to access mental health care,” she said. “Sometimes the parents aren’t supportive or the kids think they are fine. One of the big things is giving them choices. They may not know how to express themselves. Anxiety expresses itself in different ways, they could have angry outbursts or act nervous, everybody is different. They may be struggling and this will give them some tools and strategies to help them. Kids today are under a lot of stress, but talking to a counselor has a stigma, they won’t talk to me. There is a stigma that goes with mental health. Receiving mental health help doesn’t mean that you’re not ok, it just means that they need extra support. We are here for that support.”

And by helping the students with improving their mental health, Schmitz said it will go a long way in helping to improve student’s learning abilities as well.

“One thing that we as a staff have learned is that poor mental health can get in the way of learning,” she said. “Helping the students out mental health wise opens the door for more things.”