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While back-to-school shopping, making new friends, and resuming extracurricular activities can be fun, the start of a new school year can also be challenging.

Juggling school, homework, and sports. Adapting to a new teacher. Riding the bus for the first time. Transitioning from carefree summer days to the structure of a classroom.

The bottom line is — for a lot of kids, school can be scary and stressful. It’s our job to do something about it.

As the director of Lutheran Services in Iowa’s (LSI) Mental Health Services, I witness firsthand the mental health needs in our school systems. With 20 percent of kids ages 13 to 18 experiencing some form of mental illness or diagnosis, access to quality mental and behavioral healthcare is more important than ever before.

LSI provides in-school therapy in districts across the state. We are committed to lifting up children and youth who might not otherwise have access to personalized, trauma-informed therapy. We also provide behavioral health services to teach practical skills like anger management, coping, healthy decision-making, and problem-solving in an informal setting, through home visits or in the community.

As a parent, you care for all aspects of your child’s well-being, from the mundane, like packing their favorite lunch, to the serious, like taking them to see a doctor when they’re hurt. This year, as you consider your child’s health and happiness, consider their mental health, too. It’s just as important.

If your child is struggling, contact your school to find out about mental and behavioral resources in your community. No one should face hard things alone, least of all our kids.

Scott Caldwell is the director of LSI’s Mental Health Services. He can be reached at