Local school district unveils new mental health program

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The last two years of the pandemic have been taxing on all of us, but especially children and teens. KELOLAND’s Renee Ortiz finds out what one South Dakota school district is doing to not only ease that stress and start some important conversations.

“I want every student that comes to DR to know that the key decision in their life is that their life is worth living,” Summer Schultz, superintendent for the Dell Rapids School District. said.

Mental health issues are a growing concern in young adults and children. In Dell Rapids, those concerns have led to a pilot program called “My life is worth living”.

“It’s an animated series tackling a lot of mental health issues for preteens and adolescents these days,” Sara Holmburg, middle school counselor for Dell Rapids, said.

Each series focuses on a character who tackles specific issues like trauma, sexual abuse, substance abuse, cyberbullying, and identity and offers different perspectives on the topics.

“Whether it’s the perspective of the individual going through the crisis, how their friends can support them, it also does a really nice job for parents,” Holmburg said.

According to the CDC, South Dakota is one of the leading states in child suicide. That led Anne Brown, president and CEO of the group behind the project, to reach out.

“I actually called her and asked ‘is this an issue you are dealing with? is this something you would consider having your team look at and see if this could be of help to you,” Brown said.

This animated series is the first of its kind to focus on teen mental health, Cook Center brought in multiple health experts, writers and animators to bring the show to life.

“Every script, every word, every concept went through a lot of phases to make sure that we were doing things that were going to help people,” Brown said.

The program is also available for free in multiple languages on YouTube. The goal is to raise awareness and encourage conversations to help prevent suicide.

“It is our effort for global social change so that the stigmatization of mental health and suicide gets reduced,” Brown said. “It’s tough stuff even in middle school and so we want to help give them those tools and provide their parents the support to get them through those times,” Shultz said.

The Dell Rapids District will also be implementing a new drug awareness program for students and parents this fall in collaboration with Emily’s Hope.

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By Betty C. Giordano

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