Harrisburg Schools one of first to add mental health therapist

The district hired a mental health specialist to assist students and staff.
The district hired a mental health specialist to assist students and staff.(KAIT-TV)
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 6:42 PM CDT
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HARRISBURG, Ark. (KAIT) - The Harrisburg School District is one of the first in the area to put an emphasis on mental health services in their schools. The district has hired a mental health therapist.

Harrisburg leaders say this is a conversation that has been ongoing for the past two years. For them, mental health is just as important as education and physical health.

“Finally mental health is being brought awareness in the world,” Ginger Thornton, the district’s new therapist, said. “To have a district ready to jump on and have their students able to served right then, it’s a big deal.”

Thornton has been a mental health therapist for nearly a decade, working with young and old patients. It’s a topic that she feels needs to have more attention in today’s society.

“Mental health, oftentimes, is just pushed under the rug,” Thornton said. “It may be taken a different situation that’s depression, anxiety, trauma even.”

The Harrisburg School District thought the same thing.

“The psychological aspects of student’s lives are just as important as academic,” Assistant Superintendent Julie Isbell said.

Isbell was part of the conversations to bring in Ginger as the district’s mental health therapist. The role, which serves both students and staff, will deal with emergency crisis situations, checking in on home situations, and helping with potential alcohol and drug abuse.

“If the student has the flu or a broken arm, we’re going to send them to get treatment for that or advise them for treatment, so mental health is just as important,” Isbell said. “If they’re depressed or having issues at home, then it’s going to be extremely hard for them to perform academically.”

So they brought in Thornton to be the district’s new mental health therapist. Mental health is a personal topic for her.

“It means a lot to me because I grew up needing mental health services when I hit about 16,” Thornton said.

Now she can help teach students what she has learned, making sure the Harrisburg district is mentally healthy.

“Being able to work with that population from my own personal experiences and knowing, I get how you’re feeling, I know what you’re going through, now let me help you, let’s join hands, let’s do this together,” Thornton said. “I’m ready to help these students get through it just like I was able to get the help that I needed at their age too.”

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