CARTHAGE, Mo. — Mental health is a growing focus for one southwest Missouri school district as teachers and students get ready to head back to class.
The school district will host not just one, but two mental health professionals on campus this fall, something that’s not common for area schools.
“Crisis doesn’t have a schedule, you know, it just kind of occurs when it occurs,” said Jessica McDonald, Carthage R-9 LPC.
And now the Carthage School District has reinforcements when that’s the case. Deena Murdock is joining Jessica McDonald as the district’s second mental health professional on campus.
“Really working on, program development, specifically with understanding how trauma affects children’s specifically in the classroom,” said Deena Murdock, Carthage R-9 Counselor.
Many school districts rely on outside counseling – a trend that could be changing.
“I know at the state level, they’re really pushing for more trauma informed school districts, but I feel like in the area Carthage was the first,” said McDonald.
The job can include therapy and dealing with anxiety, depression or stress. McDonald started the on-campus counseling last year, and has already assessed more than 70 patients for suicide risk, 18 of those were hospitalized.
“We want to be able to handle any increases in, you know, concerns or issues that might arise, but then we also really want to work on some of those program details that help with, you know suicide prevention and awareness and abuse awareness and prevention and things like that,” said Murdock.
The program also offered therapy and mental health services to more than 300 patients last school year.
It’s hosted at Mark Twain Elementary School – but will travel to any Carthage school with a need.