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Ephrata School District takes proactive approach to student's mental health

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Ephrata School District is taking a proactive approach to mental health issues students in their high school may be dealing with. It’s a relatively new program that offers free mental health exams to all incoming freshman.

Dr. Scott Galen, the Ephrata High School Principal said, “9th grade in particular is a pivotal year in the career of a high school student.”

This is why they’re now offering their freshman a mental health screening at the beginning of the year.

“We find that’s where the majority of struggles come that’s a big transition year and it’s the same in any school when you make that leap and the rigor and expectations increase and all those pressures come into place,” said Galen.

School leaders say these days it’s tough inside and outside of school.

Dr Brian Troop, the Superintendent, told CBS 21, “Anything we can do to care for our kids in an environment where social media doesn’t give them a break from the interactions they have there’s a lot out there telling them what they should be.”

The exam looks for students who may be showing signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal thinking and behavior. The counselor, from Samaritan Counseling Center, reports back to the parents and the parents can choose to inform the school. If they do share the results they’ll make it a point to to keep up with that child.

“Our counselors meet with our students every year so if kids parents have concerns about or there’s a reason to meet more regularly they check in as needed and communicate that with parents,” said Troop.

After last week’s mass shooting at a Florida high school among several others in recent years leaders say these exams are important now more than ever.

“We do height weight vision screening it just makes sense to do mental health and destigmatize some of that that may be held from decades past it’s another organ of the body and sometimes it functions perfectly and other times we need supports,” said Galen.

Parents can opt their children out of the screening but the principal says most students participate.

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