Chris Schulz Published

Fayette County Students Take Lead To Address Mental Health In Schools 

An empty school hallway is largely white and well-lit, with bright blue doors at the end of the hallway.Adobe Stock/M. Ireland Photography

Students from Oak Hill High School’s (OHHS) Oakheal Outreach Team hosted a Student Mental Health Conference Wednesday to help other schools and counties establish student-led mental health supports.

Cassie Ganeau, a social worker at Oak Hill, said her role started in the transitional period coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. With mental health declining, she and her colleagues determined more needed to be done.

“We did what’s called a needs assessment in social work,” Ganeau said. “We just kind of developed our team and added students, and we found it was super important to include their perspective as well.”

Lily Zukowski is an Oak Hill senior and the president of the Oakheal Outreach Team. Students like her act as a bridge between school social workers and mental health resources, and also put on events focused on mental health. 

Zukowski said she noticed a positive change in the student body since the outreach team’s creation two years ago.

“We’ve had a lot more engagement within the student body and people talking to each other,” she said. “We’ve had a lot more different events and just fun things to do to get out of the house and do other things. I’ve seen the uplifting environment that it’s created in our school.” 

Students, counselors, educators and administrators from 17 counties attended the conference at the Fayette County school. Organizers say they hope the attendees will establish their own teams back home.

“It’s definitely something that a lot more schools are wanting to implement,” Ganeau said. “We have elementary schools here, we have K through 12, high schools as well. It’s really interesting to see that in those schools as well, they need a team of their own.”