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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – A new campaign to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in schools is combining all six public school superintendents in Johnson County.

In the video, the superintendents of Center Grove Community Schools, Greenwood Community Schools, Clark-Pleasant Community Schools, Franklin Community Schools, Edinburgh Community Schools and Nineva-Hensley-Jackson Community Schools share the message that mental health issues are affecting more students than ever before.

“Our children are struggling to manage stress and adapt to the pressures of every day life,” the video states. “Feelings of anxiety and depression lead to poor academic performance, increased behavior problems, substance abuse, school violence and juvenile incarceration.”

In addition to bringing light to the issue, the video is intended to encourage parents to be aware of their child’s mental wellbeing. It also encourages anyone who is struggling with a mental health situation to reach out for help and connections to resources.

“I think it’s really important that our community sees that we are all in this together and we know this is a concern that is facing our youth,” said Connie Poston, director of behavioral health at Clark-Pleasant Schools.  “It transcends the kids at school and the more we can reach parents and other community members, we’re just going to hopefully have a bigger impact.”

“We know that we’re better together, we know that we can’t all tackle this by ourselves,” said Christy Berger, director of school counseling at Center Grove Community Schools.

The campaign coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month, and comes on the heels of the latest “State of the Child” report by the Indiana Youth Institute. In that report, Indiana’s young people ranked 26th in the nation when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.  

“The mental health of Indiana’s young people is declining,” said Clint Kugler, vice president of statewide engagement and advocacy at the Indiana Youth Institute. “Elevated levels of stress and anxiety, fear, isolation. These have all been reported during this pandemic.”

“We have definitely seen an increase in the anxiety among our students, as young as kindergarten all the way through high school,” Berger said. “We’ve continued to see the increase in suicidal thoughts and suicidal plans for our teens, mainly our high school students, but again, actually K-12, we’re seeing some of those concerns.”

Poston adds that teachers and other school staff members have also been dealing with increased mental health challenges for the last couple of years.

“We’ve been trying to do some things and put some things in place to support our staff, because we know that staff and adults who are not regulated can’t students,” Poston said.

While the video aims to make the public aware of mental health services within Johnson County Schools, it also includes connections to resources outside the school system. These include calling 211 or clicking on www.bewellindiana.com to look for resources.

“We want to be partners, and we want to continue to partner with our families,” Berger said. “And I would hope that they would continue to see that message poured out through that video.”