TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Depression and anxiety are among the most common mental health disorders in children between the ages of 3 and 17 and the rates are rising, according to the CDC.
With social media and academic pressures, even broken homes, many children experience some level of stress.
That’s why the Tucson Unified School District, in partnership with the University of Arizona, is offering free counseling services to students and their families.
Coordinators of the ‘Talk it Out’ program are calling it a “win-win” for the district and the university.
9-year-old Charlis Mendez has made a few visits to a Mental Health Counselor in Training at the Catalina Family Resource Center.
"I was struggling with my friendships and my [school] work because I don't know Spanish," said Mendez.
Even a 4th grade student can feel the weight of the world.
"My mom gave me an offer, like ‘Go to counseling’,” she said. “So, I was kind of nervous to go at first. I explained all of my problems to [my Counselor in Training] and she kind of helped me through it."
Mendez says she learned some coping mechanisms.
"She gave me some breathing tools [for] my anger problems, for my anxiety,” she said. “I hold [my breath] for six seconds … and let it out in four."
Mendez is one of more than 100 students who have been getting help from the pilot program that's now being rolled out districtwide.
"Access to services is one of the challenges with mental health," said Megan Kasper, a Licensed Clinical Coordinator for ‘Talk it Out’. “We actually have 17 student counselors in training. Referrals either come through school counselors or the Family Resource Centers.”
Kasper says the program allows TUSD students get the help they need, while university students get their clinical hours.
From clients with anxiety and depression, to intergenerational traumas, to students dealing with immigration stressors, Counselor in Training, Catherine Fennie, has been getting a lot of experience.
"When students are struggling, they are going to take it out on other students, unfortunately, so it’s nice to see this as an upstream solution," said Fennie. “There are also a lot of benefits with early intervention, as research has shown.”
Mendez says she has already noticed a difference.
“It makes me feel like my brain is slowing down and it makes me feel calm,” she said.
Free mental health services are being offered weekdays from noon to 8 p.m. at:
- Catalina Family Resource Center, 3645 E. Pima St., 520-232-8684
- Palo Verde Family Resource Center, 1302 S. Avenida Vega, 520-584-7455
- Southwest Family Resource Center, 6855 S. Mark Rd., 520-908-3980
- Wakefield Family Resource Center, 101 W. 44th St., 520-225-3800