BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As Mental Health Awareness Month continues, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools is showcasing the initiatives for youth mental wellness being introduced and implemented in Kern County schools.
One of those resources, found at the KCSOS office in Bakersfield, is the Gratitude Wall. It's a place where people can write down the things they're grateful for.
Staff members with the Student Wellness Department say that showing gratitude improves self-esteem and increases mental resilience.
The Gratitude Wall is just one of the many ways KCSOS is providing school districts with ideas to help students with their mental health.
"One of our goals is to really work close with the agencies that are providing mental health services as well, really trying to collaborate with them so we can work together," said the coordinator for the KCSOS Student Wellness Department, Jeffrey Coggan. "If they're already serving the families, we could help provide that. If we can refer them, we really engage them so we can work together as a team."
Coggan says that following the pandemic, the school district watched a lot of students go through mental health challenges at school, and that is why their work to continue developing and offering mental health services continues.
"Sometimes there might be challenges regarding stigma. That's a big thing that we are trying to reduce, the stigma on mental health services. That's what we've really been seeing, is that there is an outlet now at school - because some schools might not have had that support already - and we are able to put some of those in those schools," said Coggan.
Coggan says services under the Mental Health Services Act, which has been extended for another year, allows the department to work at local schools, like Beardsley Junior High, Standard Middle School, and also Wallace Middle School.
A school social worker is also stationed at each of these school sites to meet students' needs, according to Coggan. He says they also take part in outreach as well.
"So they make themselves known. They might do 'Meet the Social Worker Day' or a 'Meet the Social Worker' event where they have a presentation so parents can come and see them," said Coggan. "They're also at Back to School nights to let them know that they have services on-site."
Coggan says elements such as the Gratitude Wall and Zen Zone, which features sensory and process therapies, such as aromatherapy and art therapy, were created to remind school districts about how mental health plays a big role in one's academic journey.
"Here we have different activities throughout this room. We have calming spaces, calming chairs, but also different activities," said Coggan, adding that it also serves as a reminder to encourage students to never be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
"I know it could be challenging," said Coggan, "but there is always someone willing to talk to them."
For more information about the mental health services that are available through the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, you can visit the KCSOS website. You can also find out what workshops and trainings are coming up by visiting the KCSOS Calendar of Events online.
According to KCSOS, many of the school-based student activities are shared directly via parent portal or social media, either by the school or by the district. Parents can contact their child's school to learn the best way to keep up with student and family resource events.