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South San Students Decry Lack of Mental Health Resources in Community

South San High School students brainstorm ways to improve the mental health resources in their school.

When buddies would ask Madisyn Donovan if she was okay, she would insist she was effective, however internally, she felt like she was on the backside of a 10-foot pit and couldn’t escape.

Donovan, then a freshman at South San Excessive Faculty, had simply enrolled in the early school program and was feeling greater than the standard educational strain of transitioning from center faculty to school courses.

“I would say I’m fine, stop prying, leave me alone, I’ll fix it myself, I’m good,” Donovan stated. “I needed someone else to help.”

However an inner voice nagged at her.

You’re not going to succeed anyway, why are you even making an attempt? No one likes you. Why even get up? Why even come to high school?

Ultimately, a good friend pushed Donovan to strategy faculty counselors for assist. When she did, she felt she wasn’t supported as she walked away with a reference sheet of counseling providers to go to outdoors of the varsity.

As members of the highschool’s Enrichment Membership, which advocates for options to scholar issues, Donovan and different college students began researching their choices and what they discovered was distressing.

South San High School students brainstorm ways to improve the mental health resources in their school.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

South San Excessive Faculty college students meet to debate the psychological well being assets obtainable in and round South San ISD at South San Antonio Excessive Faculty in Might 2018.

Of the 14 advisable clinics and practices, solely two have been situated on San Antonio’s Southside. Not all 14 accepted Medicaid or CHIP, and the bulk have been situated above Loop 410 on the Northside.

The 2 clinics situated close by had fluctuating hours relying on the day, however sometimes closed at 5 p.m. on weekdays, which was a problem for Donovan, who didn’t have a automotive of her personal, and for different college students whose mother and father typically labored previous that point.

Donovan’s discovery concerning the dearth of psychological well being assets on the Southside sparked a ardour to battle for extra help in her faculty and group. She discovered prepared companions in her fellow membership members and realized that psychological sickness was a way more pervasive situation than she initially realized.

As a person struggling to place a reputation to her feelings, she felt alone, however with a group of college students in the South San Antonio Unbiased Faculty District that understood and felt comparable challenges, Donovan felt empowered.

Melivia Mujica, one of the founders of Enrichment Membership, might empathize with what Donovan was feeling. Rising up, Mujica struggled with separation nervousness. As time went on, educational duties turned stressors and Mujica realized what she was feeling wanted to be addressed.

“I would have meltdowns in the shower and I would say, God why am I alive, why are you letting me suffer this much?” Mujica stated. “And then it kind of went on and it was like, okay you clearly haven’t taken me back home with you, so what do I have to do?”

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Melivia Mujica, one of the founders of Enrichment Membership.

Mujica went to her pediatrician to diagnose the trigger of her meltdowns, and the physician really helpful counseling.

“Right then and there, that first counseling session, my therapist said yeah, you have depression and anxiety, that’s what it is,” Mujica stated.

Retaining these experiences in thoughts, Mujica and Donovan, now a senior and junior, are working with different members of the Enrichment Membership to demand change – in their group, and near residence at their campus and faculty district.

If that they had entry to raised assets, understood extra about psychological sickness, and have been capable of have an open dialog about what correct psychological well being appeared like, they wouldn’t have struggled as a lot, they stated.

In April, members of the membership attended a South San Youngsters First assembly at Palo Alto School. They addressed the viewers and spoke with group members about what they seen as a niche in psychological well being assets on campus. South San Excessive Faculty, residence to 2,600 college students, employs eight of the district’s 20 counselors and shares the district’s conduct specialist, Susan Arciniega, with the opposite 12 campuses.

Arciniega’s earlier title was social employee and her position nonetheless features as such. When she began in the district about 20 years in the past, she solely coated center faculties, however since that point has adjusted to cowl all 13 campuses.

There’s an enormous hole in these numbers from South San to close by districts of comparable sizes. Harlandale ISD, with 14,360 college students, employs 40 counselors and 14 social staff. Edgewood ISD, with 10,410 college students, has a employees of 26 counselors and 12 social staff.

South San’s monetary troubles constrain staffing ranges – final month, trustees requested voters to approve a tax price improve to convey in a further $6.three million in income. This cash might have funded a quantity of totally different positions and coated a district deficit.

Voters rejected the rise, nevertheless, and board members as an alternative needed to grapple with which core providers to slice. Main as much as the finances approval assembly in late August, trustees have been reviewing their contract with Communities in Faculties, a nonprofit that has 12 employees members in the district that provide help providers to college students.

Associated: South San ISD to Minimize Employees, Packages After Voters Reject Tax Improve

Trustees finally spared CIS, however the monetary limitations nonetheless existed.

CIS staffers assist college students academically, however can also refer them to counseling; join them with housing, meals, or primary provides; and supply packages like a counseling group targeted on constructive ideas.

Three of these CIS staff work with college students at the highschool, however many consider they’re unfold too skinny and may’t supply sufficient help.

Two of the South San Excessive Faculty CIS website coordinators share a caseload of about 140 college students. A visiting medical caseworker spends three days every week in South San however is shared with three different districts, and manages a caseload of 65 college students between all 4.

The varsity’s counselors are seen by membership members as educational in nature.

South San High School Student Council President Marc Mendiola.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

South San Excessive Faculty Scholar Council President Marc Mendiola.

“Honestly all I know that they do is they just make our schedules and prep us for college,” junior and Scholar Council President Marc Mendiola stated. “[I]t seems like someone to guide you to get to college or get good grades.”

Lead Counselor Charlie Gallardo needs college students to know his group does extra than simply assist change schedules. They might help college students with social-emotional wants and refer them to CIS or counseling providers whether it is past their capability, he stated.

Donovan doesn’t blame Gallardo’s staff for not serving to her extra together with her personal psychological well being journey however needs there have been extra employees and help providers in place to supply help.

The advisors and CIS staff, too, want they might have a limiteless quantity of additional help, however understand it may be unrealistic to depend upon that risk.

“I think we would all like to say I want 25 counselors here … of course we know that is not going to happen,” Gallardo stated. “The outcry [for support] has been there from us.”

Associated: South San Trustees Choose Former SAISD Administrator as New District Chief

Arciniega tries to bridge gaps the place she will with partnerships and grants. She’s in talks with Our Woman of the Lake College to convey in social work interns to extend her personal capability, JOVEN Youth Group San Antonio to supply group counseling, and Household Service Affiliation for “students who fall through the cracks.”

As one South San instructor stated, although, something having to do with grant cash might be taken away.

Outdoors companions who don’t have a everlasting place or positive funding streams on campus can’t make up for long-term relationships that college students belief, nevertheless. The rationale Mujica and Donovan first felt empowered to speak about psychological well being was as a result of of a strong bond with one of their academics, Arabella Daniels. Daniels turned the sponsor of Enrichment Membership, and over time, introduced increasingly college students in by encouraging them to share about what they have been going via and discover a constructive answer.

South San High School teacher Mrs. Daniels speaks with Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) about some of the concerns she has.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

South San Excessive Faculty instructor Arabella Daniels leads a dialogue in Enrichment Membership.

“I’m not going to go to someone I don’t know or don’t trust and say I have a problem,” sophomore Evany Gonzalez stated.

As extra providers arrive on campus via outdoors contractors, Enrichment Membership needs to ensure there’s a regular, everlasting menu of providers on the campus. On the prime of their precedence record are extra social staff; psychological well being screenings for all college students who register at the highschool; and help teams for psychological sickness, incarceration, immigration, and courting violence.

They need to convert one of the closed down center faculties, probably Kazen Center Faculty, and open it in partnership with the Metropolis and County as a psychological well being and group assets clinic.

“I think mental health has come into the forefront and it is just timing,” Arciniega stated. “We are hopeful we can communicate the need and that there will be a response from the community that it was helpful so we can build sustainability. Right now, though, it is through grants.”

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