TAYLOR, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Some additional help is on the way for students in a local school district who are struggling with their mental health. That help is made possible through a significant grant no other school in Pennsylvania was awarded this school year.

Welcome to Riverside School District, the home of the Vikings.

Like virtually every other school district, it’s home to a struggle: student mental health issues affecting their quality of life, their physical health, and their academic performance.

“If you think about it you can throw the academic or the learning piece out if kids aren’t ready to learn and in the right mindset,” said Paul Brennan, the Superintendent of the Riverside School District.

Riverside School District applied for a grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance STOP School Violence Program. They recently got a response.

“We’re, as you can imagine, extremely excited,” Brennan commented.

Riverside will receive $750,000 to hire three licensed professional counselors for three years.

One counselor will work at the junior-senior high school, the other two will cover both Riverside Elementary Schools.

Many students experience mental health pressures, some the result of other students’ accomplishments posted on social media.

“Maybe family members are seeing this. I have to achieve this level of success to make my parents proud and that’s not how it should be but with the elevated pressure of social media that’s how it is for a lot of us,” Michael Rhoades, a senior at the Riverside Jr. and Sr. High School explained.

Riverside School District actually tracked how many students were struggling with mental health. Its findings? Disturbing.

Based on 2021 Riverside data, more than one in three students exhibited mental health problems to the point where they received a referral for additional help. Now, that additional help will be right in the school.

“It makes it more accessible for younger kids to be able to get that help because it could be very hard to ask for it,” Jennifer Genell, a Senior at the Riverside Jr. and Sr. High School stated.

“It will greatly help what I do,” Whitney Jones, the School Psychologist at Riverside School District noted.

Jones oversees student struggles at all three Riverside buildings.

“I’ve noticed since COVID a very big spike in behavioral referrals for, you know, my part of the puzzle here. So that will be a big help,” Jones said.

The idea behind Riverside’s $750K grant is to address student mental health issues before they lead to potential acts of violence.

Riverside will look to hire the three licensed professional counselors immediately after proper vetting.