WilCo counselors and care providers tackle mental health in schools

Williamson County’s Mental Health in Schools Conference was created to help kids deal with modern problems. (CBS Austin)

It's ironic that a conference on mental health in our schools would be held in the same building that houses the Georgetown Police Department. Because if everything works out right, behavior problems in our schools don't have to become police matters.

Being a kid these days is tough. And Williamson County’s Mental Health in Schools Conference was created to help our kids deal with modern problems. Matt Smith is assistant executive director of Williamson County Juvenile Services. He says, “Six years ago when we started we noticed we were having quite a few youth suicides that were happening in our schools. That started the discussion."

Debbie Hooks, RN chimes in. She’s with Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute. She says, "Even in Georgetown, it's a small town but still we need education about mental health and taking the stigma away and increasing the information is what the community needs."

The conference has grown to 140 school counselors and local mental health care providers. Casey Hooks, who works in business development for Georgetown BHI says, “That gives us an opportunity to see what are our teachers seeing, what are the needs of the students. That way we can build programs exactly around what they're looking for."

Today we saw the conference attendees learn about restorative justice, reopening the dialogue that solve problems like bullying and teen suicide. Janis Jerome runs the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue at the University of Texas. She says restorative justice begins with talking things out. "Cultures many years ago circled around a fire, circled around a tree, sometimes our family circles around the kitchen table. And we build relationships by dialoging. Dialoging and building relationships is key to restorative justice."

The group also saw a film called "Resilience" which shows how the stress of mental problems often leads to health problems. Mary Faith Sterk, also with Georgetown BHI learned, “Your brain may not remember but your body does. and the relationship of toxic stress to all of our top chronic diseases in our country have been proven."

And that is no way to grow up.

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