OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) — Catholic schools in the Omaha Archdiocese are taking seriously the problems of student anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
One effort to help is a pilot program providing counseling to students at six Omaha-area Catholic schools.
Through a partnership with archdiocesan schools, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha is supplying a licensed mental health therapist to provide direct therapy services at each school one half-day per week, said Theresa Swoboda, clinical nurse manager and coordinator of the program.
“Our intent was to begin this for the second semester, but there was so much need expressed by the schools, that we began in October. Anxiety is the number one problem,” Swoboda told the Catholic Voice, Omaha’s archdiocesan newspaper.
In addition to the demands of school, students may struggle with family problems or divorce, and the impact of increased social media activity.
“Since 2008, the youth suicide rate has continued to increase, correlating pretty closely with the increasing availability of smartphones and social media,” she said.
An on-site therapist eliminates barriers to access and makes available the specialized counseling that school counselors are unable to provide.
“Research shows that students’ mental health, social and emotional balance, and academic performance improve if you can go to the kids in their own environment,” Swoboda said. “And students don’t have to leave school to see a therapist.”
Catholic Charities also has now begun an outreach to rural schools through a tele-health option with online resources, she said.
Swoboda said Catholic Charities hopes to obtain funding to expand the program, making it available to any Catholic school in the archdiocese that requests it.
Schools involved in the pilot program are St. Mary in Bellevue, and Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Vincent de Paul, Mary Our Queen, Roncalli Catholic High School and Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, all in Omaha.
In addition to the counseling services, Duchesne Academy makes mental and physical health information part of the curriculum through healthy living classes, said Laura Hickman, principal.
“We want to provide (students with) deeper education on what a healthy lifestyle looks like, signs of depression in themselves and their peers and ways to deal with anxiety,” she said.
The school also created a Facebook page to inform parents about youth mental health issues and foster an exchange of information.
Duchesne also helps students find time for quiet reflection through prayer services and guided meditation during classes, and is considering small-group sessions with adult moderators, Hickman said.
“For students to learn, their basic needs have to be met, but when we have students dealing with debilitating anxiety, depression or other emotions they don’t know how to express, learning becomes difficult,” she said.
“Everything we can do as a school to help students feel healthy and in control of their emotions makes a difference.”
May is on the staff of the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103