School program brings a sense of normalcy to patients receiving - KPTV - FOX 12

School program brings a sense of normalcy to patients receiving mental health treatments

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Teachers are doing all they can to help local students admitted to the psychiatric ward at Randall Children's Hospital transition back into the classroom.

It's all part of the RCH School Program, and staff members say they're already helping hundreds of Multnomah County kids.

The program is designed to help kids stay on track with school work during their stay at the hospital. Kids are taught by Multnomah Education Service District teachers.

"By the time students get to me, they've hit rock bottom," MESD teacher Ben White said. "Most kids who come here, there's some sort of suicide attempt, or mental health crisis going on.

White said he'll teach about 16 kids at a time.

"We have 5-700 kids coming through every year,” he explained. “I think this is a really important changing spot for kids.”

Zaire Wellman was once one of those kids, overcome by the stress and expectations of his family, school and work at just 16-years-old.

"I just came home one day wasn't feeling it and kind of exploded," Wellman said. "I attempted to slit my wrist with a kitchen knife."

Soon after, the teen was admitted to the psychiatric wing of Randall Children's Hospital.

"I was really picturing really white walls, people in strait jackets, you know holding cells. I was not expecting school," Wellman recalled. "Especially since that was one of my stressors back at home."

White says they strive to encourage learning in a fun setting while helping students realize that school is a safe place to explore their potential.

"Ben did a really good job of bringing the classroom together,” Wellman said. “It felt good to have a connection to people while in here."

White told FOX 12 that this year he's also working with the MESD to help kids re-integrate back into the classroom outside of the hospital by partnering with their principals, counselors and teachers.

"We're now processing hundreds of kids who are going back to school with supportive safety plans and recommendation's for support when they go back to school," White said.

It was that support that gave Wellman the strength to apply to college. He's now studying fine arts at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland and wants to give back to the program that helped him get there.

Wellman is featured in a new video that's now shown to every patient on their first day in the hospital classroom. He hopes it helps them realize they aren't alone.

"I learned things like I wanted to learn while in here, and I do enjoy learning, it's the depression that gets in the way of me not wanting to learn or being able to learn."

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