Mental Health Continues to be a Concern

Mason Students Mental Health Continues to Be Concern for Educators, Families
Posted on 10/17/2019

Being a student is stressful, but trying to juggle school work and other responsibilities while experiencing mental illness can make it even harder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 live with mental health conditions and approximately 75 percent of people with mental health issues develop them prior to the age of 24.


On September 11, Mason City Schools hosted a CommUNITY Conversation about stress and distress. Michael Sorter, MD and Stuart Slavin, MD, discussed the key environmental factors contributing to this epidemic and what can be done about it. Attendees explored ways parents and educators can reduce academic load and pressure, without lowering standards, “dumbing down” the curriculum, or missing out on some mythical perfect college application.

"The path forward includes assessing sources of stress students' lives. We need to challenge the myth that the most elite college is the best college. Schools need to set strict limits on the amount of homework assigned and time in extracurricular activities. We also must help students develop cognitive skills to combat toxic mindsets and distortions. And, finally, we need to create greater opportunity for students to find meaning in their lives," recommended Dr. Slavin.


Watch the Conversation


MCS Makes $500K Annual Investment in Mental Wellness Supports

This year, the Mason City Schools Board of Education approved adding staff who help increase students’ access to mental health services and help coordinate care.

During talks with our students, staff, and in our CommUNITY Conversations, I have consistently heard concerns about supporting learners’ mental wellness. This is an issue that is bigger than Mason - and bigger than our schools. However, we deeply believe that our school district must do more, and our School Board has committed to investing more financial resources in this area so that we can better support students and staff,” explained Superintendent Jonathan Cooper. “We will also continue to pursue partnerships and grants to support mental wellness.”

As a result of the decision to have one start time for students in grades 3-6 rather than a start time for Mason Elementary School (grades 3 & 4) and a different time for Mason Intermediate School (grades 5 & 6), the district saved $150,000 - savings that have been invested into mental wellness supports. The district has made a $500,000 annual investment in student mental wellness support.

Mental Wellness Supervisor (Nicole Pfirman)

  • Mental Wellness Coordinator PK-2 (Laura Martin)

  • Mental Wellness Coordinator 3-6 (Breanna Lynch) 

  • Mental Wellness Coordinator 7-12 (Michelle Dorsey)

  • Resource Coordinator (Warren County ESC Contracted Personnel)


During the 2019-2020 school year, Mental Wellness Supervisor Nicole Pfirman oversees the district’s mental wellness efforts. She is joined by three new mental wellness coordinators. Laura Martin supports the Mason Early Childhood Center. Breanna Lynch supports Mason Elementary School and Mason Intermediate School. Michelle Dorsey supports Mason Middle School and Mason High School.  The mental wellness coordinators evaluate building level need, create and align programming with district goals, analyze program effectiveness, build staff capacity, train staff in a variety of mental health topics, and are a front line of support for students in crisis. The Mental Wellness Coordinators will work with school counselors, intervention specialists, and contracted clinical counselors to build a tiered system of intervention to increase the likelihood of students remaining in the general education environment. In addition, the Mental Wellness Coordinators assist school teams in developing plans for transitioning students back from clinical care to help ensure a successful reintegration within the school environment. MHS teacher Lori Roth continues to support Mason High School’s Hope Squad (a school-based, peer-to-peer, suicide-prevention program with a curriculum focused on suicide prevention and self-care).

Additionally, through a grant with the Warren County ESC, a resource coordinator works with Mason families five days a week. Mental Health

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