CHARLES CITY, Iowa - The numbers may surprise you: 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Staff in the Charles City School District spent their Friday going through training to help them better understand how to help kids who are dealing with these issues.
Cindy Rurup is from the Central Rivers Area Education Agency, and is one of 16 people from across the state training staff members. She is leading a group of teachers and staffers that work with kids from Pre-K to 2nd grade.
"Most of the program is about adolescents. However, you're seeing the signs and symptoms at an earlier age. And they're all about earlier intervention. That's who they are by nature."
She applauds the district for making the time to partake in this important training.
"We are absolutely thrilled that Charles City took this on to bring in this many staff members and this many trainers. That's why we had to pull people from other agencies so that we can have enough trainers here today."
Scotti Hagensick is a counselor for Lincoln Elementary and the Middle School, and works with kids from 3rd to 6th grades. She says the training will help staffers have a conversation between one another and help those in need.
"While we may not be able to change what's going on for our kids, we can certainly have that empathetic support for response and help them when they need it."
And the students she and others work with are her the priority.
"I think mental health is something we have to know about, and it's for the best needs of our students."
The key strategy taught during the training is the "5 Step Action Plan", which can be remembered as the "ALGEE" method. That stands for: Assess for risk of suicide or harm, Listen non-judgementally, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help and other support strategies. Rurup wants staffers to walk away with this in mind.
"Our goal is to help equip them with that 5 step action plan to say, 'I can be that one person who makes a difference. I can be that one person who talks to them about them and lets them know they're not alone and there are some resources out there to help them.'"
About 240 staff members from across the district participated in Friday's training.