Students call for additional counseling resources in wake of another suicide at Neuqua Valley
Neuqua Valley High School students are speaking out after a second classmate this school year died by suicide.
Principal Lance Fuhrer addressed the student's death, which occurred last Wednesday, in an email to the Neuqua Valley community. Fuhrer detailed the need to focus on the emotional stress felt by students and the strategies to support them.
Several Neuqua Valley students spoke at Monday's Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board meeting to call for additional counseling resources. Some said they were coming from the student's wake to speak to the school board.
"We as students feel that we need more resources dedicated to mental health," said Neuqua Valley student Clare Malloy. "Having counselors and social workers trained specifically for adolescents would be an incredible asset. These professionals would be just like our academic counselors, assigned to students, and provide mandatory check-ins with all students."
In his email, Fuhrer stated the school's Crisis Team -- 12 school counselors, three social workers, three school psychologists and a mental health coordinator -- met with hundreds of students last Thursday and Friday.
In the future, he said, the school will continue to support students by developing general coping skills, encouraging and modeling student advocacy skills, and deepening intervention with students nearing crisis.
District 204 Superintendent Adrian Talley, delivering his board report after the students spoke on Monday, said district officials planned to meet this week with the principals at Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley to discuss how to "augment what we're already doing in our schools" to focus on students' mental health.
"We want to come to it from a three-pronged approach," Talley said, "working with staff and building their capacity, helping students and also our community."
Talley agreed with the students' comments that while the district has mental health resources, there aren't enough to meet the many needs. He called it an ongoing national issue.
Students who spoke on Monday talked about the academic pressures that accompany being part of one of the state's highest-achieving school districts.
"Our entire lives we've been told that we're smarter than everybody else," said Neuqua Valley student Lucas Lombana Arias. "That creates this environment in which we are expected to succeed and thrive academically. And if we don't, we're seen as failures. Our grades are tied to our self-worth."
Neuqua: School's Crisis Team met with hundreds of students last week