Sto-Rox superintendent working to break the stigma, help students with mental health

MCKEES ROCKS, Pa. — The need comes in all shapes and sizes.

“The loss of a grandma, even the loss of a pet, a loss of a sibling, some type of community violence where they lost a peer. These are all types of situational and that can happen at any time,” said Sto-Rox Superintendent Meg Van Fossan.

Van Fossan tells Channel 11 that means a child’s need for mental health help is constantly changing, too.

“Kids who have depression, have anxiety, don’t come to surface and we don’t want them to suffer in silence. We screen for reading, we screen for math,” Van Fossan said.

So why not screen for mental health, too? That’s what Van Fossan wants to see as Sto-Rox District only screens a student if they are identified in need.

“There continues to be in our society this mental health stigma and we need to move past that,” Van Fossan said.

Looking at the data, Van Fossan said about 400 students across the district, or 40%, are in need of mental health help, which is more than double the state average.

“The earlier you intervene, the more likely you are to have less invasive needs and medical treatment,” Van Fossan said.

Now Van Fossan is working with lawmakers in Harrisburg to make yearly mental health screenings a pilot program across the state. If it gets approval, she believes it will only benefit the students, giving them a voice.

“If we are doing it on a regular basis, we are more likely to catch kids and intervene prior to it becoming life-threatening,” Van Fossan said.

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