New Braunfels ISD tackles mental health issues; students say program is helping

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – The New Braunfels Independent School District is taking steps to address mental health issues by implementing a mandatory mental health education program for all secondary teachers.

School stress can lead to anxiety, depression and suicide -- all mental health issues high school students deal with.

“High school is very stressful,” said Lacey Marsh, a senior at New Braunfels High School. “There’s homework. There’s tests. We are all getting ready for college.“

The program is something that Marsh is thankful that her district has implemented.

“You are feeling pain, and if you feel that pain for a long period of time, you unexpectedly go numb,” Marsh said as she opened up about how she has struggled with depression and anxiety. “And that leads to self-harm and that leads to suicide.”

Marsh said she was able to overcome her depression by confiding in her English teacher.

“I talk about my anxiety and depression with her openly, and I know that she doesn’t judge me,” Marsh said.

Marsh said she feels safe at New Braunfels High School because she knows she and her fellow students have their teachers to confide in.

“Just having that stability, that open-mindedness, that your teachers are there for you, that they love you with all their hearts unconditionally is a big one,” Marsh said.

Karen Schwind, health services coordinator for NBISD, said she brought the Youth Mental Health First Aid program to the district in 2014 to help students like Marsh and others with mental health issues. 

“(We) looked at what mental health resources were available and what issues our children were having, because, frankly, we were seeing students commit suicide at that point as well,” Schwind said.

Schwind said all middle school and high school teachers and counselors in the district are required to take an eight-hour course that teaches the warning signs of youth mental health problems and how to reach out and help students.

“Students who are depressed and may be suicidal also have a high statistic rate for being homicidal,” Schwind said.

In the midst of several school shootings in recent years, Schwind believes looking at students' well-being as a whole is crucial to prevent any tragedies.

“That’s what we do as educators, we help to take care of the whole child, not just teach them their math and send them out the door,” Schwind said.

Schwind said once a teacher reaches out to a struggling student, they make sure to get them the help they need through counselors or doctors. Marsh urges any students who struggle with mental health to not be afraid to open up.

“If you don’t talk it out, then how do you expect to get better,” Marsh said.

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