La Crosse high school students plead for more mental health resources

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — As in-person school continues, La Crosse high students a mental health crisis is spreading in the schools.

“I have been a student of Central (High School) for 63 days,” freshman Laura Lapp told La Crosse School Board members Monday night. “That’s 63 days of growth, learning and support I’ve gotten from staff, students and friends. That’s also 63 days of confusion, stress and pain I’ve had to endure.”

Lapp and other high school students spoke at the school board meeting to raise their concerns about the lack of mental health resources.

“They’ve come back twice now to talk to us. and we greatly appreciate their activism and advocacy and we’re listening to what their telling us,” said Superintendent Aaron Engel.

But students say they are not the only ones who are struggling.

“We have no mental health support from our schools due to counselors being overwhelmed by their current workload,” said sophomore Carter Mendel.

Senior Ella Lysne says advisers are assigned too students, making one on one care difficult.

Her adviser “is one of my most trusted adults in the building, but with 250 other students that she must also get to know, it is hard for her to be there all the time,” Lysne said.

The district is using a Project AWARE — Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education — grant to hire direct support. Engel said.

“We’ve recently hired additional social workers to help students with mental health and community needs,” Engel said.

Changes and resources need to be provided soon, the students said.

“Depression and mental illness don’t wait for funding,” Mendel said.

Engel said the district is working to meet their needs. It is partnering with Gundersen and Mayo Clinic health systems to provide mental health assistance with referrals.

“We want to make sure that we’re putting in place things they need to be successful and happy and healthy every day,” he said.

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