For many students, mental health challenges can be a debilitating force. Together, we’re doing something about that.

The boy couldn’t concentrate in school. Anxiety and depression had infiltrated his mental defenses. Major life changes at home had thrown his world off its axis and his brain chemistry began to misfire. The strife carried over to the classroom. Assignments were late. Focus was lost. And friends were few and far between.

The end-game to these kinds of situations is sometimes devastating and too tragic to bear; a scan at the local news often confirms this. But not this boy. Not this time.

Because he was able to access school-based therapy services, offered in the Farmington school district by Community Partners with funding from United Way of the Greater Seacoast.

“Often times people don’t understand what they’re seeing is a mental health issue,” says Lucy Putnam, Youth and Family Services Director for Community Partners. “They can see someone hard to get along with as a loner or a jerk, rather than see the mental health challenge.”

Community Partners, a United Way partner organization, provides mental health and developmental services to Strafford County. The Farmington program focuses these counseling and family-based support services in the school, the nexus of a community, where students, educators and families can meet with convenience.

“The Farmington school district has been one of our superstar districts,” Lucy says. “They have been so motivated to get this program up and running and getting referrals to the therapist.”

Here’s how it works: the guidance department identifies students who could benefit from the therapy, talks to the family, who is then referred to Community Partners; the family has an intake meeting and is informed of the available services; finally, the student meets with the therapist and family case management, home-based programming and psychiatry is offered as a follow-up.

Since the Farmington program launched at the tail-end of spring in 2016, 12 students have been served and over 75 hours of services have been provided to families.

“The numbers may not seem that large, but the impact is a lot bigger,” Lucy says. “These services can mean the world to those students and their families.”

Like the boy, who met with a therapist and learned to manage his anxiety and overcome his depression. And his family who took home best practices to support him beyond the classroom. In fact, through their connection with the program, the family accessed additional resources to help them with the struggles that had been such a disruptive force.

“Schools are recognizing that they want to become more mental-health-informed,” Lucy says. “There’s still a long way to go as far as educating the public and students and changing attitudes around mental health, but we’re making inroads.”

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