Wichita Public School continues partnership with local mental health service

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Suicide rates in Kansas are rising and with the Wichita Public Schools open enrollment starting on Monday, students and faculty are more aware than ever before of the growing problem. The United Health Foundation reports from 2017 to 2018, the suicide rates in Kansas increased about 8 percent.

Gabe Hardman, soon to be a high school senior says the school is actively involved in helping students who are struggling, "the school does a really good job of telling people that you're not alone. And like spreading awareness."

And parents say they can see why suicide rates are rising, "because kids do struggle a lot, there's a lot of pressure for young kids to achieve and to meet certain standards," said Sheila Hardman, Gabe's mom. 

Wichita Public Schools teamed up with Comcare last year, a mental health center specializing in children and young adults. Each school also has a nurse, a counselor, a social worker and a psychologist on site at all times. School officials also say there is a district mental health team support dispatched to schools when needed. 

The Comcare partnership along with all of the other resources the school provides during the school day gives the school an opportunity to have more of an impact on the student's daily lives.

"We were able to serve the kids that we wanted to serve and the family's were very pleased to have the services while the child is at school," said Shantel Westbrook, Comcare Director of Rehab Services. 

Westbrook says the partnership with the schools is less disruptive in the students learning experience, "so I'm really excited about the second year because we've kind of ironed things out and we hope to just, the day school gets started, we will be off and running." 

Students all across Wichita say the most important thing to remember, is there is always someone to talk to.

"Try reaching out to kids. Like i know in my school there's a lot of kids that are willing to help people that are being bullied and reach out to adults, too," said Keegan Jurgensen, a Maize High School student. 

"The first thing i would tell anybody struggling with mental health issues is that you're not alone," said Gabe Hardman.