Mental health program inside of this Woodlands school aims to prevent mental health struggles

Our students have so much more access to technology, to social media. It’s led to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness on a level we’ve never seen before.

The Woodlands – Lower school counselor, Amanda French, said for a few years they’ve witnessed students at The Woodlands Christian Academy struggling with mental health.

The teaching staff said they could recognize it but weren’t sure what to do to help.

“Even though we’re small and the teachers can handle so many things in the classroom, this is huge,” French said. “If you can prevent it when they’re young, you will see less things happening in our middle school and then in our high school age.”

She worked with the director of the health clinic at The Woodlands Christian Academy, Jennifer Jadlot, who noticed the same trend.

“What I have noticed, particularly here in the health clinic, is when our students are experiencing trauma, stress, and other issues of mental health that it can manifest as somatic symptoms,” Jennifer Jadlot said. “They might find themselves here in the clinic thinking that they have a health issue, a physical health issue when it’s really more of a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.”

She has seen students with headaches, stomach aches and simultaneously students are stressing about something, never realizing the physical and mental aches are linked. Jadlot didn’t feel equipped to handle the rise but was so passionate about helping her students, that she returned to school to study counseling.

“On a personal level, I have actually found that what I saw here in my clinic led to such a growth in me and a desire to be able to be more helpful, and so I’ve actually started my graduate program in clinical mental health counseling,” Jadlot explained. “I’ve worked with our administration to help build more programming within our school. So, training for our staff members, training for our parents, and training for our students.”

They brought in Dr. Mark Mayfield, a clinical mental health therapist, to help them build a program for their school.

“I’ll be on campus probably once or twice a month, if not more, and then our training for parents will be once a quarter in the evenings,” Dr. Mayfield said.

He teaches the Student Support Program at The Woodlands Christian Academy as a stoplight approach.

“Green light alert is finding this. The student’s behavior is a little bit off, but we want to make sure that we’re recording it so we don’t get to crisis. Yellow light alert is very much the behavior is escalating and then a red light alert is, ‘OK, we need to implement a wellness plan. We need to get more wraparound services involved.’ But we’ve created something here at the Woodlands Christian Academy, and all of the schools I work with, called the Student Support Committee, and they’re the ones made up of five or six people that are engaged in getting these reports and then deciphering, okay... we need to bring parents in.”

The good news is, he believes the solution is also at home.

“A lot of kids, they connect with their friends over, you know, multiplayer games and VR and that kind of stuff and there’s nothing wrong with that but 10 hours a day, 8 hours a day, you know? So, creating a family culture around what is important to them... Maybe, you know, a couple of hours a day and that kind of stuff but we’re not we’re going to engage in it at dinner time around the table. We’re going to do our extracurricular activities.”

Mayfield said the danger in allowing too much screen time is that it prevents a critical part of a child’s development.

“Kids are so isolated, they think that the screen time interaction is what is needed for relationships,” he said. “Our brain develops relational connectedness only when we’re face to face and engage with people and with eye contact. And so I think just social media is neutral in my opinion and can be used for good or bad. But the overuse creates issues in our relational emotional connectedness, which makes way for loneliness.”

So, by bringing a child’s whole village together at home and at school, they believe we’ll have a healthier future generation.

“That’s a big component of what we do is our relationship with our parents to be able to help get our students get the care that they need,” Jadlot said.

“I feel like we’re in a time right now that starting young is key,” French said. “Preventing it before intervening is huge.”