'Let's Talk About It." Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental health wellness is an essential part of the overall health and well-being of both our students and staff. Mental health challenges affect all of us and the way we think, feel and act.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we’re spreading awareness about what’s available to help staff and students. A list of resources and hotlines is available here on the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District website.

For our educators and staff, the Washington State Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides counseling, webinars and other services and resources to promote the health, safety and well-being of public service employees.

Know that you are not alone.

Mental Health: ‘In the end, talking about it is really what we can do.’ Elhi Hill grad shares successes amid struggles

Content warning: This story discusses depression and suicidal ideation. 

Emily Jensen remembers when she first started as a sophomore in the Elhi Hill High School Program in the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District.

“I started excelling. I was like flying through courses and they were surprised at how fast I was getting stuff done,” she said.

But it wasn’t always like that. 

Throughout most of her life, Emily struggled with her mental health, due to factors both inside and outside of the classroom.

“I did not have any friends. I did not have set social friends. I really just kind of struggled,” said Emily, who is now 19. 

From an early age, Emily loved to learn, but around sixth grade, she felt she wasn’t being challenged.

“I was just not doing well and I just didn't care. I felt like I just didn't want to do this. I was already dealing with depression and suicidal ideation,” she said. 

In seventh grade, Emily had her first suicide attempt and survived. She went to a long-term treatment center, changing schools in the process, and later returned to SBLSD for her sophomore year. Emily then survived an overdose and went to another treatment center.

“These stays can be anywhere from like one month to, for some people, years. So I’m missing like two to three months of school each time. I'm missing so much school and then when I arrive back or if I even switched schools, I'm lost,” Emily said. 

Emily applied to be in the District’s Elhi Hill High School Program, and actually found out she was accepted while in the hospital recovering from her overdose. After treatment, she started there.

“They were so accommodating, like literally I could cry, I love them so much,” she said. 

Elhi Hill was a turning point for Emily. The learning style was liberating, she said, because it laid out everything she needed to accomplish, allowing her to go at her own pace and easing her anxiety. She said the staff there always checked in to see how she was doing and asked her what she needed to be successful when creating her independent learning plan. 

“That takes effort, that takes, like, your dedication, your own time,” Emily said about the staff. “They just blow my mind with their hearts, honestly.”

An Elhi Hill teacher, Mr. Hagen, helped Emily to take an assessment at Pierce College to go straight to Precalculus, despite being behind two years in math, and would also sit down to help her with the work.

Having staff check in with students, to get to know them rather than only handing them a list of suicide hotline numbers, makes a difference, Emily said. 

“It’s that consistent dedication that is really important for students,” Emily said. 

Emily graduated on time through the Elhi Hill High School Program in 2020 and is now enrolled at Central Washington University’s Pierce County campus and is working to become a teacher herself and help students like her. 

For other students who may be facing the same struggles as Emily had as a student, she wants them to know that they are not alone and encourages them to talk about how they’re feeling with others. 

“In the end, talking about it is really what we can do,” she said. “Talking about mental health is actually one of the ways that we can process it the most.” 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741741. More resources are available at sumnersd.org/counselingresources.

About Elhi Hill High School Program

The Elhi Hill High School Program provides a caring environment for students who need services beyond the traditional school day to meet state and district standards. Students must be referred and accepted to the program. Students who graduate from Elhi Hill receive a diploma from Bonney Lake or Sumner High School.

Mental Health Awareness Event: May 23, 2022

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District is hosting a community Mental Health Awareness Event in partnership with Kids' Mental Health Pierce County and Coordinated Care to provide information and resources about mental health and mental health conditions.

The event will be hosted from 4-7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 23 at Sumner High School, 1707 Main Street, Sumner 98390.

A Community Resource Fair with agencies including MultiCare Behavioral Health, Greater Lakes, YES Sumner-Bonney Lake, Managed Care Organizations, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Pierce County will be held from 4-5 p.m. Free food will be available during this time.

Following the resource fair, the documentary film “My Ascension" - about a woman’s suicide attempt at 16 years old and her journey to use her experience to help others find hope - will then be screened at 5 p.m. The screening will be followed by a community panel Q&A at 6:30 p.m. focused on mental health, suicide prevention and crisis resources.

For more information, visit kidsmentalhealthpiercecounty.org, or contact bhnreferral@multicare.org, 253-891-6000.