mental health

Board Discusses Additional Employee Benefits Supporting Mental and Emotional Health
Posted on 04/15/2020
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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports nearly one in five adults in the United States reported some form of mental illness in 2016. In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.


Many people with mental health disorders also need care for other physical health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illness, and disorders that affect muscles, bones, and joints. The costs for treating people with both mental health disorders and other physical conditions are 2 to 3 times higher than for those without co-occurring illnesses. By combining medical and behavioral health care services, the United States could save $37.6 billion to $67.8 billion a year. Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee: 

  • Job performance and productivity
  • Engagement with one’s work. 
  • Communication with coworkers. 
  • Physical capability and daily functioning.

Investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for people and also good for business which is why DeSoto Independent School District plans to adjust leave policies to consider the addition of mental health leave as an added benefit for employees starting in the 2020-2021 academic school year.


After review of the DeSoto ISD local policy and other district comparisons, the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees discussed the expansion of the local policy to include one additional local leave day, two mental health days, bereavement days and a buyback program at retirement for unused leave during the April 14, 2020 Board Workshop.


“The mental health policy is important because right now as our staff has been inundated with a lot of rapid changes both personal and professional,” Trustee and DeSoto High School Alum Dr. Tiffany Clark said.  “I believe that DeSoto ISD can change the narrative and give staff a day where they can focus completely on their mental health, without having to use a regular work leave day when they simply need to breathe. When teachers or staff request this day, the goal is for HR to send out tips on how to self-care which can include going to get a massage, journaling or just simply sleeping for the day. Most importantly, I want the staff in DeSoto ISD to understand you must self-care and take care of your mental health in order to pour into our students effectively.”


As an added tool to the district’s efforts to support mental and emotional wellness for staff, the district offers an extensive Employee Assistance Program which provides short-term counseling for a variety of personal issues at no cost to the employee. These benefits also extend to members of the employee’s immediate family including spouse or life partner.


Whether the source of stress and/or anxiety is work-related or home-related, employees have access to six free counseling sessions per concern. Due to COVID-19, sessions are now available by phone or video call.


“We understand that COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on all our lives,” DeSoto ISD Chief of Human Resources Mia Stroy said. “If you are experiencing stress and anxiety during this time, for any reason, speaking with someone can help and support can get you through these times and back on track to functioning in a more balanced and holistic way.”


Social and emotional support for students and staff remains a significant focus for DeSoto ISD and the district continues to explore best practices to ensure best available resources for all.


Through the work of the district’s Student Support Services team, the district now offers a cohesive and streamlined system to serve students’ social and emotional needs and assist in building their capacity in this area of their personal development.


These measures, include social-emotional learning curriculum embedded into the academic experiences, social-emotional counseling services and referrals and, as part of the district’s new Anytime, Anywhere Learning initiative, the district will provide activities for journaling and streamed meditation and yoga for students to assist in managing the stress of school at home during the current public health crisis.


DeSoto ISD is extending its focus on mental health and wellness to the community by utilizing its recently-developed Town Hall Tuesdays at Noon series as a platform to discuss physical and mental wellness during the coronavirus pandemic.


The April 21, 2020, virtual town hall will take place via Zoom and includes updates from district leadership alongside representatives from the City of DeSoto and the City of Glenn Heights. This installment of the four-part series will feature an alum-turned family medicine doctor and two mental and behavioral health specialists.


In this forum, the community is invited to openly  discuss the stress and concerns of their families and households as a result of COVID-19.


Need Help Now?

Texas Health and Human Services has launched a 24/7 statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress or emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


This new resource offers COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans. Those seeking assistance can call the statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line anytime toll-free at 833-986-1919.