Overwhelming? Yes, of course it is! I never saw the course, “How to Fix All Major Societal Problems” listed in the school counseling curriculum... no one was taught this stuff. And there isn’t a “one size (one program) fits all” for addressing mental health in a school. As with all else, rural will look differently than urban—not everyone will have a satellite clinic in their building.
But here’s another truth—rural or urban, we already have the resources in our building to address mental health at its core. For teens, the strongest protective factor against suicide is having one caring adult in their life. Teachers, coaches, administrative staff have daily contact with all students, and in small schools we know our students well.
Rural districts may have the highest suicide rates and fewest resources but that should only encourage us to empower our greatest protective factor—our staff. In facing this challenge we need to think people not just programs. Focus on empowering and supporting our staff to unleash the care, compassion, and professionalism they bring to their classrooms each day. Our people can make a difference.