Multnomah County tackles mental health in schools: 'It's important we reduce stigma'

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Earlier this year, a statewide study showed Oregon is above the national average for the number of teens dealing with depression and having suicidal thoughts.

To help those students, Multnomah County is now offering services to teens in 40 schools, whether it be having someone to talk to or finding a place to get more serious help.

“For students, being able to have a healthy mind is critical to being successful in school,” Director for Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services David Hidalgo said.

Nationally 1 in 5 people will deal with a mental health issue in a year. That number is higher locally, according to the recent survey from the Oregon Health Authority.

RESOURCES | Mental Health Online Resource Guide

“It was actually a third of students who said they experienced significant depression for two weeks at a time or longer,” Hidalgo said.

Multnomah County is making it a point to have services available in schools.

Stephen Dunlevy, a supervisor for School Based Mental Health in Multnomah County, has helped students with students for more than 15 years.

“The kids really do want support, often times when they come in they are apprehensive. So we work hard to engage them,” Dunlevy said.

He says, it’s all about the way you approach the topic with teens.

“Instead of using words like depression and anxiety, using other words like stress or worries. Just talk about how things are going, what do they struggle with, how’s school and things at home,” Dunlevy said.

According to the survey, teens believe mental health should be a top priority, but county officials say the stigma stops many from talking.

“It's important that we reduce stigma so that getting access to mental health services is just like going to your doctor,” Hidalgo said.

Multnomah County not only offers resources in schools but also at county health offices and through a phone line 24/7. See a full list of resources here.

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