School district receives mental health grant for third time

Camdyn Rohde, Editor-in-Chief

The Berlin Area School District has been awarded the School-Based Mental Health grant from the Wisconsin DPI for the third time. The grant is for $75,000 and it must be used within two years of receiving it. School Social Worker Carrie McCarthy says at all levels, the money is used to train every staff member in “Youth Mental Health First Aid,” a program aimed at helping trusted adults recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis occurring in a youth or young person and then knowing what to say and how to help.
“At the high school and middle school the funding is used to provide support for the Sources of Strength upstream prevention program. At the elementary school, the money is used to fund sensory pathways which helps students regulate their emotions through movement. At all levels, the grant pays for consultation time between pupil services staff and mental health providers for students so that mental health supports can be included in the classrooms,” McCarthy said.
Along with the grant comes mandatory mental health training for the staff at all school levels to complete. Many teachers and staff members have been completing the training since 2015, while new teachers had to complete their training this year. English teacher Bret Steffen completed his training during an inservice day prior to Thanksgiving break.
“I think the training helps staff to be able to talk about things like suicide and other mental health topics. We learn vocabulary and facts that help us understand more about mental health, and it takes away the fear of dealing with these important but often complex issues,” Steffen said.
In the elementary school, the grant is used toward funding sensory path exercises. According to a board report submitted by Director of Pupil Services and Special Education Ann Schnyder, “A sensory path is a combination of independent movements for kids to follow, directed by symbols and markings on the floor or walls. These sensory paths include movements such as gross motor (jumping jacks, twist jumps), vestibular (tip-toe walking, windmills), and calming activities (pattern breathing, yoga). Sensory paths, and sensory play, have greater impact than just on a student’s ability to focus.”
Within the middle and high school, the grant is used toward funding Sources of Strength Training and Integration.
“Sources of Strength is an evidence-based suicide prevention program that uses peer leaders to increase protective factors associated with reducing suicide,” Schnyder stated in her board report.
Similarly within the middle and high school, the grant is also used toward funding a Relationship Mapping Tool.
“Relationship Mapping is an activity designed to create a visual representation of the students who are most connected/supported and the students for which we need to intentionally plan opportunities for connection with adults in the school building,” Schnyder stated in her board report.
This is Berlin Area School District’s third round receiving the grant, and according to McCarthy, the grant is available for use from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023.