April 5, 2024

New funding helps DU’s Center for Rural School Health and Education Satisfy the Demand for Mental Health Services

When DU’s Center for Rural School Health and Education (CRSHE) interviewed teachers in 2019 about the changes they most wanted to see, one response was overwhelming — more attention on mental health. To help satisfy that need, CRSHE recently received a grant from the Caring for Colorado Foundation to strengthen mental health among students and staff members in rural Colorado schools.

Based in DU’s Morgridge College of Education, CRSHE’s objective is that all children, youth, and adults in rural communities should live healthy and meaningful lives. The Center partners with rural schools and communities to improve those outcomes.

Elaine Belansky, a research professor and CRSHE’s director, explains that, “We’re really hearing about educator stress, burnout, fatigue, and retraumatization by trying to support students who’ve been traumatized, triggering issues of their own trauma. They need and deserve a great deal of support, otherwise we’re facing a significant workforce loss of teachers, and that affects students’ experience.”

While the Center doesn’t tell partners what to do, it offers a process – a scaffolding – that helps schools figure out next steps. Without the support of CRSHE, executing these initiatives would place an extra burden on schools that are already at their capacity.

Even before the pandemic, rural schools struggled with funding, meaning less staff and a greater sharing of responsibilities. For example, it wasn’t uncommon to see a principal teaching math class, driving the bus to athletic events, and serving as the school’s athletic director. Post-pandemic, those schools have been pushed to the limit, even further stressing staff.

“We want schools to be places where kids want to be,” said CRSHE’s associate director, Benjamin Ingman. “And we want schools to make changes to promote mental health to benefit students and teachers, which is why the Caring for Colorado Foundation grant is so important for us and the rural schools we serve.”