Collaborative Investments Are Helping Rural Students Access Mental Health Services

One in four kids is struggling with a mental health issue and nearly one in 10 have attempted suicide in North Dakota. That’s right here in our community. This is according to the North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey taken around North Dakota every other year. Though counseling services have been known to help students overcome these issues, there are many obstacles facing students living in rural areas when it comes to accessing the help they need. Through a partnership with the Burgum Foundation and Northern Cass Public School Districts, United Way is proud to be part of a joint investment that will not only help students receive services but make these services accessible to students in their own schools.


With an investment of $5,000 from both United Way of Cass-Clay and the Northern Cass Public School District and a $10,000 investment from the Burgum Foundation, on-site mental health services will be provided to students grades K-12 in the rural school district in Cass County, North Dakota starting this month.
“We are at a unique time in education. At this time, we have the most gifted generation of students to ever walk into our schools. We have students who are creative, empathetic, and leaders in the truest sense of the word. We have more knowledge than ever on how to educate students in a manner which will help them reach their full potential. However, it is clear we can’t just focus on the academic side of learning. Schools recognize the importance of social emotional learning. We much educate the whole student and it is our responsibility, our duty, to find different ways to meet those needs” said Cory Steiner, Northern Cass Public School Superintendent.


Starting this month, The Village Family Service Center will provide mental health services on site to students and families for a full day once a week. Having access to mental health services close to home helps remove major barriers for students and their families such as the stigma associated with mental health issues, lack of awareness and understanding of mental health issues that students face, and reduce the amount of time that students have to spend outside of the classroom traveling to and from appointments in the metro.


“We are proud to support rural educational opportunities in North Dakota. Geography shouldn’t dictate a child or student’s ability to have access to counseling, therapy, and mental health services. We believe that to ensure a strong learning experience, a student must be socially and emotionally ready to learn and that we as a community need to do all that we can to educate the whole child” said Katie Itterman, Burgum Foundation Executive Director.


Today, we know more about mental health than we ever have, and therefore we have an obligation to do more as a community to support the mental health of our children and students. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder. In a classroom of 25 students that may mean five students might struggling with the same issues many adults face such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.


According to the most recent North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
• 27% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities during the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 30%)
• 20% of 6-8th grade students & 16% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota seriously considered attempting suicide during the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 18%)
• 13% of 6-8th grade students & 14% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota made a plan about how they would attempt suicide in the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 15%)
• 7% of 6-8th grade students & 9% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 9%)

Knowing what we know about mental health and how it affects learning, it is our job as a community to support the next generation and help prepare them for their future. “This partnership will connect service providers with our school in a meaningful and authentic manner that will allow learning to take center stage. It will allow families to grow closer while also providing students a foundation for a successful future well beyond their time at Northern Cass” said Steiner.
United Way’s investment in the on-site mental health services at Northern Cass Public Schools is working towards the BOLD Goal’s of Preparing Children to Succeed and Helping People Be Independent by giving them the access to services that will not only supplement their education but hopefully give them a better quality of life. UNITED we can make a difference for the next generation. UNITED we are a Force for Good.


For more information, email unitedway@unitedwaycassclay.org or call us at 701-237-5050.

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