LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - One in five students ages 14 to 19 will experience a serious mental health issue. The problem is they usually wait at least 10 years to even address the issue according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Educational Service Unit Five, located in southeast Nebraska, is taking mental health matters into its own hands.
The 400 students that attend Tri-County Public School have access to a mental health program that does not interrupt their school day.
"Kids may have bad days and they need to express that, and other days they're having good days just like adults," Jen McNally said. McNally is the program coordinator for ESU 5.
According to McNally, the program is a different type of therapy. The focus is to meet kids where they're at and not pull them out of school to go to appointments.
"We know kids are eight times more likely to access mental health services if they are within the school, so they're much more able to access us than have to go after school with all the things they're doing, and it's easier for the parents to know the program is within the school," McNally said.
There are three other therapist as well, Cole Stark is one of them. Stark and McNally are both Doane University graduates. He has spent most of his career working in the clinical field. Stark was eager to join the ESU 5 program because of the difference he sees it making.
"Seeing the work that she (McNally) was doing at ground zero right up front with these kids in the schools, and I saw that it was working, and probably more so then what we were doing in the traditional setting," Stark said.
The program reaches kids Pre-K through 12th grade with all types of backgrounds.
"We have some kids who have some severe mental illness, and we have high ability learners and multiple sport athletes who are feeling lots of stress and pressure and just need that person within the school setting to say it's ok," McNally said.
The program is currently in 7 of the 10 ESU 5 school districts and it's expanding to an 8th next year.
"I think it's pretty telling and amazing to think about in two years time we've had four clinicians and we're in eight out of the ten districts and consulting across the state with other ESU's and helping them build their program," McNally said.
According to McNally, ESU 9 in south central Nebraska plans to bring on a full counselor next year. Also ESU 1 and 4 have hired on therapists. As for ESU 5, it has not been announced what school is going to get the 8th program, it should be announced in the coming month.