SALT LAKE CITY When a child is going through a mental health crisis, their education can take a back seat.
A local hospital helps students recover while staying on top of their schoolwork.
Sophia Couzins is just one person who has benefited from the efforts of those at the University Academy at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
Couzins goes everywhere with her Goldendoodle Winnie.
He is the best thing in my life. Without him, I don’t think I’d be here today, Couzins said.
He was 13 years old when he started suffering.
I just transferred schools that I think I felt a little anxious about,” Couzins said.
Depression set in and he couldn’t concentrate in school.
So, it was super overwhelming to think about things I had to do to catch up,” she said.
After opening up to a school counselor, Couzins sought treatment.
“I ended up with Teen Scope.”
Classroom at Huntsman Health Institute
He stayed on top of schoolwork in a classroom at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. The University Academy is one of only a few accredited schools of its kind in the country. Crisjon Solano is the principal.
University Academy is a private, K-12 school that serves our three-day treatment programs and youth residential program, Solano said.
Teachers work closely with students, their treatment teams and parents.
I’m not even going into the classroom, I’ve only been there for a month, Couzins said.
Solano said the kids come from an environment where they are not motivated.
When they get here, we will start slowly. Kind of meet them where they’re at, said Solano.
With Solano’s help, Couzins took small steps to enter the classroom throughout the class period. He developed a love for art therapy.
It’s quiet and you can create anything you want, he said.
The academy interacts with the students’ regular school and district.
We are contacting the school and asking ‘how is this child doing?’ ‘How are they interpersonally?’
Students face mental health challenges while in their regular school.
These children do not see themselves as learners; Learning is hard for them, or they like the learning part but the social aspect of school and some of the pressures there are too hard for them,” said Solano.
One in five children in the US has a mental health disorder, and the rate of suicide attempts among young people has increased over the past decade, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A report from Clarify Health shows that the number of mental health hospitalizations increased by 124% from 2016 to 2022.
School connections are important
Dr. Aaron Fischer is a professor of school psychology and psychiatry at the University of Utah.
School connectedness is really important,” he said.
He said schools play an important role in a child’s recovery whether in a hospital setting or traditional classroom.
Bringing them together is part of her mission at the Utah School Mental Health Collaborative.
I think the systems don’t always interact with each other. And I think that’s one of the pieces that we’re trying to do, Fischer said.
Setting kids up for success so they’re ready to return to the classroom is an important part for parents, and making sure the school has a plan, Fischer said.
After his time at University Academy, Couzins earned his GED diploma and his path led him to Salt Lake Community College.
With him is Winnie, she is studying for finals.
He kind of knows when I’m stressed, and he’ll put his head on my knee, Couzins said.
The 4.0 student said she wants to be an EMT, something she never thought about.
I worked really hard to get here and I’m proud of the work I’ve done.”
There are a ton of resources beyond HMHI that families can access – even for families living in rural parts of the state. You can start here at: u-tteclab.com/utah-smh-collaborative.html.
- SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor via chat by downloading SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388)
- SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading SafeUT Frontline app.
- SafeUTNG: National Guard members can chat with a licensed crisis counselor free of charge 24/7/365 by downloading SafeUTNG app.
- Utah Hot Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear while you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 am-11:00 pm, 7 days a week , 365 days a year.
- The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, inpatient treatment, therapy and medication management, substance use and addiction recovery, children’s programs and youth, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
- LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith-based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, gun suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.
Utah counties provide services for mental health and substance use disorders. The centers are operated by thirteen Local Mental Health and Substance Use Authorities across the state and offer therapy, substance use disorder treatment, support groups, mobile services, treatment in youth, and more.
These resources and more information can be found here: https://www.uacnet.org/behavioralhealth.
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