Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - A new program in the Chippewa Falls High School is aimed at improving more than just a students grade point average. Mental health is on the school's radar.
Studies show 50 percent of kids who have a mental illness will actually drop out of high school; that stat is the driving force behind a new program at the Chippewa Falls High School called "Sources of Strength", designed to teach students, staff and parents the signs of mental illness before it is too late.
"The more you can connect kids who have any kind of a struggle with a caring adult the more likely they are to stick with it," Principal Rebecca Davis said.
Chippewa County Public Health Division Manager, Carol Meagher, said mental health issues are common for students, and knowing the warning signs as a parent can be key.
"I think it is really important to know what your child's normal is, so if they aren't doing something that's normal that you ask them why," Meagher said. "Don't be afraid to ask them. If you noticed that they were very talkative, and now they're not really talking to you, (or) if they are kind of holding up in their room and they never did it before. It's important to be aware of what your child's doing."
So, this fall, 25 community members and 50 students, picked by staff, are being trained to know the signs of depression, ranging from bullying to substance abuse. That select group will be tasked with watching for signs of mental illness and helping before its too late.
"Instead of trying to get kids at the back end, when they are really in a state of deep depression, or a place where they can't really find their innate wellness, it's teaching them on the front end about being strong and understanding that you don't have to do anything alone," Davis said.
The "Sources of Strength" program comes at a cost of $5,000 and is being funded by an anonymous donor.