CHAT helps students face challenges

Published 10:19 am Friday, March 27, 2015

Tanya Rider

AHS mental health professional

Within an ever-changing world, students face a great deal of challenges, including pressure for academic success, complications and stresses related to heavy utilization of social media, peer relationships and issues, being a positive member of the community, and being an active member in their own family. Mismanaged stress and pressures promote unhealthy coping methods such as drugs and alcohol, as well as negative implications for overall physical health.

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At a meeting with the school district’s student support professionals last year, it was brought up that there was growing concern for our student population regarding increased physical and mental health concerns. In discussing the methods students are using to cope with these issues, professionals cited information received from the Minnesota Student Survey, the Austin Area Drug Task Force, and the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment completed by Mayo Clinic Health System Austin Campus, as well as Mower County Health and Human Services.

The team decided to create a wellness sub-group to meet and discuss the possible reasons behind the rise in concerns and ways that they could increase support offered to the students regarding stress, anxiety and depression.

As a joint effort to promote and grow a culture of well-being at Austin Public Schools, a representative from Austin Medical Center and Mower Refreshed also attended meetings to help facilitate and support the process. Discussions brought about the idea of the problem really being a systemic issue, reaching further out from just the school. Students also have roles within their own families as well as in the community. The wellness subgroup, in collaboration with Austin Medical Center came up with a triad. CHAT stands for Cooperative Health Action Triad, with the triads being students, community and school staff with the understanding that all of these factors are equally important and inter-dependent on one another to thrive. This is intended to be a culture-shifting model to grow well-being throughout all components of the triad.

CHAT has the simple intention of being relentless in looking for the good that is happening and the conditions that are fostering a sense of physical, mental and relational health for students, staff and all members of our community. CHAT is about our words and how they impact our focus. This focus creates our reality. CHAT is fueled by all three of its triads and their motivation to move beyond from responding to redirecting the trends. It is about discovering what is going well in our school environments and intentionally growing more of that good. CHAT is not a program, curriculum or mandate. It’s not dependent on resource rich environments and the aim is not to add another task to everyone’s already full plate.

CHAT continues to operate in the early stages and encourages others to get involved and engaged. For further information or to participate in the focus groups, feel free to contact the Community CHAT Facilitator Sandra Anderson at Anyone interested can also visit the Mower Refreshed website at, or email at