PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. — As children deal with more mental health challenges, school psychologists are on the front lines to support them.

What You Need To Know

  • Data from the CDC in 2021 shows nearly a third of high schoolers reported poor mental health

  • School psychologists are often on the front line of supporting students through mental health challenges

  • Anxiety is the most common struggle Prairie du Sac school psychologists see on a regular basis

Rachel Lizzadro-McPherson is in her first year at the Sauk Prairie School District. She’s the school psychologist for the middle and high schools.

“I think of school psychologists often as translators,” she said. “We’re hearing a lot of different things from a lot of different people, and we’re able to put it together and figure out how things could go, and how people might need to hear something a little bit differently.”

Her days are spent with students, teachers and families. Plus, a lot of paperwork.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show in 2021, almost a third of high schoolers reported poor mental health. Lizzadro-McPherson said she sees it every day.

“A lot of anxiety and depression,” she said. “I think those two inherently go hand in hand. It’s kind of like a snake eating its own tail.”

Those symptoms can start early. Matt Bell is the psychologist at Sauk Prairie elementary schools.

“If I had to categorize it, it would be anxiety,” Bell said. “Students who, for whatever reason, just cannot get to a regulated state.”

According to Education Week, as student mental health needs grow, the workforce of psychologists, social workers and counselors needs to grow as well. However, many districts are already facing a shortage of those professionals.

Lizzardo-McPherson said school psychology is her calling.

“I moved around a lot, had a lot of mental health difficulties myself,” she said. “It was the few teachers that I had that saw me and said, ‘You know what? I see your situation. That’s hard. But you’re harder. And I’m going to hold you up to the high expectations that I know you’re capable of reaching’.”

For mental health resources geared toward children, click here.