Schools provide mental health support for students

Kent County

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Evan Kobayashi’s former teammates remember him as funny, charismatic and a lover of baseball.

To his mom, Kobayashi was a kind-hearted, humble and loving soul.

In August 2015, Kobayashi took his own life at 17 years old, right before his senior year at Cedar Springs High School.

“We love our students,” said Scott Smith, superintendent of Cedar Springs Public Schools. “Our community loves their children.”

Smith said he’s working to ensure other students, like Kobayashi, don’t suffer in silence.

“Last year alone, we hired three child life specialists and hired two counselors,” Smith said.

Smith said the specialists are a part of a 13-member mental health group, who are dedicated to supporting each student.

Following three suicides, including Kobayashi, in his district, Smith said educators looked more closely at what kind of resources were needed for the students.

The three positions the superintendent added last year cost the school system $400,000. While he admits it was a costly undertaking, Smith said the help his students receive is priceless.

“The number of students that have gone from a school setting to a medical care facility has decreased in the last three years,” Smith said.

Officials at West Ottawa School District also made mental health a top priority, adding nine specialists who will begin in the fall.

“We need to meet students’ needs both socially and emotionally before we meet their needs academically,” said Brian Field, West Ottawa’s assistant superintendent of student services.

Administrators said the new staff will focus on middle and high school students. They aim to ensure no child gets left behind.

“It takes a village, and we’re all here to help kids,” Field said.

For people in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can always be reached at 1.800.273.8255 or online.

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