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County studying two new mental health initiatives

WILLMAR -- Troubled teens and people with mental illness could benefit from two health initiatives being studied by Kandiyohi County.

The Kandiyohi County Board heard reports on the two new programs at the Tuesday County Family Services meeting.

Supervisor Carmen Clementson spoke to the board about TeenScreen, a program to identify youth at risk of developing mental health disorders, and the 10x10 Wellness Campaign, an effort to improve the overall health of adults with serious mental illness.

TeenScreen is a project of the National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University.

It is already used in Marshall. County family service workers are developing a network of service providers and gauging community support for the program.

The university provides a screening tool for voluntary mental health screenings for middle school and high school students. The hope is that the screenings will identify young people who are at risk of developing mental health disorders and find students who may be at risk of attempting suicide, Clementson said. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in young people from the ages of 10 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

If the county decides to participate in TeenScreen, the cost of implementing it will be some staff time, she said. Statistics would be provided to Columbia University.

"Suicide is not as unpredictable as you may think," Clementson said. While some students may talk about suicide openly, she said, "some are sitting out there depressed, and they never come up for air."

In Marshall, groups of students are screened, a group of students can be screened as a group, and then someone meets with each child, regardless of their results.

Those who have done the screening have said that students were happy that someone was asking how they felt, she said. "Often kids want to talk and aren't given the opportunity."

Commissioners Richard Larson and Jim Butterfield praised the idea. Larson said it continued work previously done by Pact 4 Families. "I think this is a good thing," Butterfield said. "Let's keep our teens safe."

The 10x10 program seeks to reduce early mortality and improve wellness for people with mental illness. It is a program of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Mentally ill people live about 25 years less than others and have an average life expectancy of 53 years, Clementson said.

The effort would try to integrate the care of mental health providers and health care providers to improve overall health. The care team would also encourage healthy lifestyles and regular health screenings.

"Lots of people struggle with sleep," she said," and diet and exercise are also difficult." The hope is that an integrated team would provide spiritual, occupational and environmental support for mentally ill people. The team would encourage "self management," as well.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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