GFPS acknowledges the power of mental health help

Kerrigan Edwards, Editor in Chief

Over the past few years, the topic of mental health has been brought to the attention of everyone. However, in a school environment, mental health help has been increasingly directed primarily at students. At what point does it get so bad that we finally care about the mental health of teachers and staff members? 

Recently, Great Falls Public Schools hired Zach Schenk, a mental health specialist who not only tends to the needs of students, but also to staff members across the district. 

“This is the first year the district has had mental health therapists for the district, and so my job is to provide mental health support to students at the schools that I’m assigned to. Also, if there is any kind of crisis at any other school, then it’s my job to help find the right solution for that,” Schenk said. 

Making sure that the mental health of staff members remains intact is very important, and Schenk realizes this. 

“Since this is a new program, we’re trying to figure out exactly what’s needed. One of the things we know is that working in a school is not easy for teachers at all times. Covid has impacted the way that their jobs are, and it’s been difficult for everybody. They have their own stuff going on, and they have to come to work and teach students, and we try to support them in any way,” he added.  

Junior Della Everhart agrees that “being a teacher is not easy.” Everhart expresses her acknowledgement of everything that teachers go through, and she believes that sometimes the best thing [students] can give them is space.

 “Teachers are always around students, are always doing something, are always working, so you need to make sure to give them space from that sometimes,” Everhart said. 

Schenk says that he finds it valuable when teachers express their mental health to students, as it creates a stronger bond.

 “I think teachers need to be genuine so that they are able to reach students. But they also need to do their job [so that] if they’re having a bad day they can’t take that out on the kids,” Schenk said. 

Everhart agrees that she has a greater connection with those who are willing to share more.

“I definitely think that the teachers I’m closer with are like me, so they are very open about just anything in general. Teachers who really get to know the student as a person and appreciate the student, are the ones I appreciate most.”