LA CROSSE, WI -

Just about every staff member in the La Crosse School District has special training to identify mental health needs and concerns of students.

The district has teamed up with Gundersen Health System for the last three or four years.

Staff members participate in a two hour program that features a panel of experts and stories from people who struggled with mental health while in school.

The discussion has been growing for the last ten years as health experts and school officials realize just how many students need a little bit extra to meet their needs in the classroom. "We know that about 12% of kids have a diagnosable mental illness that if left untreated can cause lots of problems for the child and the family and the schools," said Gundersen Health System Educator Patti Jo Severson.

Undiagnosed mental illness can be the cause of things like excess absences, poor test scores, and being less outgoing. Even worse, health educators worry that this leads to substance abuse and other illegal activity.

A district representative says the training gives teachers the resources they need that can help all students be successful.

"Allowing our staff to learn about the appropriate terminology and ways to recognize mental health concerns has really been a crucial step in our development as a district as we work to meet the needs of all children here," said the La Crosse School District's Director of Pupil Services Regina Siegel.

The program works with the National Alliance on Mental Health. The organization's website has resources available for teachers and parents.