We all hope it won’t happen to us. We read the tragic headlines coming from Waseca and we hope with all of our might that sort of trauma never touches us, our schools or our community.

Oftentimes, we only hear about the issue of children’s mental health when “big” things happen – like the story in Waseca or Sandy Hook Elementary. But the reality is that many children struggle on a much smaller scale every day. One in five children struggle with social, emotional or behavioral problems that impact their ability to be successful in school and at home.

An eighth-grader with anxiety so severe that he often misses school, a 10-year-old who depressively isolates herself from her friends, a teen struggling with the unexpected death of his father … these are children who need support now so that their struggles don’t negatively impact their future. Research shows that students with emotional and behavioral disorders have the highest rate of school failure and absenteeism of any special education category.

May is National Mental Health Month – a time when we bring awareness to this topic that often has much stigma. It’s also a time when Washburn Center for Children – the state’s leading children’s mental health center – recognizes the partnerships that help children get critical early mental health intervention.

We are grateful to partner with the Eden Prairie School District in having Washburn therapists based in seven Eden Prairie schools. Together, we help ensure that teachers know how to identify a child who might need help. School-based therapeutic services gives families convenient access and gives children skills that help them be successful. This partnership has proven to be so effective that we are working to expand to serve two more schools this year, including Eden Prairie High School.

A child’s mental health is as important as their physical health, and Washburn Center for Children’s partnership with Eden Prairie Schools helps meet the community’s needs for early mental health intervention. We are proud to be part of a community that cares about the mental health of its children.

Lepinski is the executive director of Washburn Center for Children, a 131-year-old Twin Cities nonprofit whose school-based program serves the Eden Prairie, Minneapolis and Bloomington school districts. Info: www.washburn.org.


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