Convention discusses future of mental health care in Nebraska schools

The Kim Foundation wraps up annual gathering

LA VISTA, Neb. (KLKN) – Kids are six times more likely to obtain mental health care if it’s in the school system, and it’s easily accessible.

So how do we make sure that support is in every school? And how do we make sure it happens in a safe space?

“Like anything else, it comes down to funding,” said Cole Stark of the Educational Service Unit in Beatrice.

But he said schools “are already stretched thin.”

Julia Hebenstreit, executive director of The Kim Foundation, said the state needs to provide the funding and workforce for mental health in schools.

“It doesn’t do us any good to identify things in people that they need to connect with to help if we don’t have those resources available,” she said. “I think funding and access are huge.”

Students also told the Kim Foundation’s annual convention on Thursday that it can be stressful to seek help in a school.

“Sometimes it can be scary to go into a counseling office when you have multiple students around you, or people to think differently of you,” said Madeline Thompson, a student at UNL.

One idea to help keep their visit confidential is having QR codes in the bathrooms.

That QR code would send an alert to the office, which could call you into the counselor without students knowing where you are going.

Students also said mental health needs to be talked about more.

“Don’t just have, like, these basketball teams come visit, or these painters come paint you a picture in front of the stage or this chorus come sing,” Thompson said. “Have people come talk about mental health and get people educated. I don’t think it’s talked about enough.”

Emma Benoit, a young woman from Louisiana who survived a suicide attempt, is traveling from state to state, sharing her story to help others who may be in crisis.

“It is a sign of strength to reach out for help, and not a sign of weakness, to reach out and seek help for your mental health,” she said.

She said a new nationwide service is launching in July that she feels will help so many.

“988 is revolutionary in my opinion,” Benoit said. “I think it is so necessary and so important, and I think that it is amazing that we are finally moving the 1-800 number down to a three-digit number. I think the most crucial part about 988 is the fact that it’s going to equip young people to have a number already ingrained in their head that they know they can call in a time of an emergency.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Kim Foundation, visit its website.

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