Gov. Evers Helps to Eliminate the Stigma of Mental Illness in Schools


A rare, quiet moment in the NHS counseling office.

Olivia Widmer, Student of Journalism

Gov. Tony Evers plans on adding $22 million each year to the already existing budget of $3 million to aid in paying for school social workers, nurses, counselors and psychologists.

This plan helps teens and children facing mental health challenges and those that are at risk.

Although not yet passed into a law, this boost in budget could be a  monumental way to help students in need if later passed.

Although it sounds like a step in the right direction, Evers has a tough crowd to please. His proposed budget still has to make it through the mostly Republican controlled legislature. Some of whom have already voiced their opinions of opposition toward Evers’s proposal.

Ironically, it was Gov. Walker that introduced the expansion of funds for mental health in the 2017-’19 budget.

Mental health in schools should be a top priority.

For example, 27 percent of Wisconsin high school students have reported feeling sad or hopeless almost everyday for 2 or more weeks in a row, which then in turn stopped them from pursuing activities that they find enjoyable. Compared with the overall average of the United States, which is 31 percent.  Clearly, Wisconsin is not on the low end of that survey.

Now looking more into the statistics of students; 8 percent of students in Wisconsin high schools reported attempting suicide 1 or more times in the last 12 months since the survey was taking (High School Youth Risk Behavior survey). While this may seem like a low number, why not take a different approach to mental health?

Why not find ways to limit and disintegrate the stigma of mental health in our schools?

“If these programs are sustainable we should see a reduction in anxiety and better treatment for depression and suicide. We should also see better referrals for many mental health disorders and better treatment provided at the schools by community agencies,” Dr. Mike Altekruse said when asked how this budget could help future generations of students to come.

With this budget money, Altekruse notes that NHS initiatives to provide social emotional learning, suicide prevention, reduce bullying and raise mental health awareness at all levels in the district could receive additional funding.

He clarified that this money would help NHS to sustain efforts as well as take on new initiatives such as restorative practices. They will be able to apply for grants to address the following issues:
screening, anti-bullying trauma-sensitive school, social-emotional learning, suicide prevention and reducing mental health stigma.

Helping raise awareness of mental health issues improves community.

Altekruse believes additional funding is a step in the right direction for students struggling with mental health issues.