State Superintendent wants more social workers and health services for students

Posted at 9:43 PM, Dec 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-27 23:20:11-05

State Superintendent Tony Evers is asking for $6 million to expand mental health services for students across Wisconsin in response to a growing number of suicides.

Evers' request will be considered as part of the state's 2017-2019 budget.

Jamie Olender and her husband, Eric, recently lost their 15-year-old son to suicide. They believe bringing in more mental health resources could be the key to stopping these tragedies.

Cameron was transgender, and struggled with depression and bullying. His parents believes school districts in Wisconsin are not properly equipped with enough staff to help struggling students.

"I think if there are more counselors out there to talk to the students, I think it will ultimately benefit them," Jamie said. "They can get their voice heard and say what's bothering them instead of just going home and bottling it all up and keeping it in."

Superintendent Evers believes $6 million could be the key to save lives.  His proposal includes spending $2.5 million to offer treatment to students on or off campus through community health provides. Another $3 million would help schools hire more social workers. Lastly, another $420,000 would be spent to help train school staff with identifying and responding to mental challenges.

"They (kids) need somebody else to talk to sometimes beyond their parents or brother or sibling," Jamie said. "They need someone that actually has the knowledge to help them."

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the suicide rate in Wisconsin is four times the homicide rate. The department says over 700 Wisconsin residents die by suicide each year.

The department also provided the following statistics:

  • Nearly four out of five people who die by suicide are male.
  • Whites experienced the highest suicide rates by race, followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and African Americans.
  • Approximately 50-percent of suicide decedents have at least one known mental health problem

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

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