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Supporting School Mental Health Centers

Supporting School Mental Health Centers

by Rev. Randy Knighten on April 25, 2023

Supporting School Mental Health Centers

According to the American Psychological Association, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new set of challenges for youth in the United States. These challenges have led to a mental health crisis, but many believe that children and youth in this country have been suffering for far longer.

In the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness—as well as harmful thoughts and behaviors—increased by about 40% among young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.

“We’re seeing really high rates of depression, and this has been going on for a while,” said psychologist Kimberly Hoagwood, Ph.D., a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “It certainly got worse during the pandemic.” These difficulties, on top of growing concerns about social media, mass violence, natural disasters, climate change, and political polarization—not to mention the normal ups and downs of childhood and adolescence can be the source of feelings of hopelessness for many young people.

For over two years the Risk-Taking Mission and Service (RTMS) Committee of Saint John’s has supported the work of Austin Independent School District (AISD) School Mental Health Centers. These centers are school-based therapy programs that operate on 17 campuses throughout Austin. A collaboration between Seton Healthcare Family, AISD Comprehensive Health Services, Austin Travis County Integral Care, and Vida Clinic, offers accessible, person-centered, culturally-inclusive, confidential, evidence-based mental health services and assessments to children and their families. Each School Mental Health Center is staffed with at least one full-time Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP). With parental consent, all students are welcome to utilize the services offered through the mental health centers. The school-based therapy program is open and accessible to all students.

The RTMS Committee discovered that many times the mental health workers at the School Mental Health Centers are faced with challenges when families they are helping are also in need of material assistance in times of crisis. RTMS decided that we would come alongside the mental health staff to support these families in crisis.

Matthew 22 calls us as followers of Christ to extend our love and care beyond the Church and out into the world. We are called to be present in our communities and among our neighbors, with the hopes of discovering ways we are able to build mutual support. Through our support of the mental health workers in our public schools, we are showing love and care to our neighbors. For more information on how you might support AISD mental health centers please contact me at

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Join us this Sunday for Mental Health Sunday to learn more about the work that Saint John’s does through our Mental Health Ministries Team.

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