The Bridge program supports the mental health of Cape Cod high school students

Two local schools are part of a statewide network that helps students with mental health issues.

Both Barnstable and Falmouth High School have Bridge programs that are part of the BRYT network.

Bridge provides academic and therapeutic support for students when they are absent a lot from school for medical reasons, which are often related to mental health.

Falmouth High’s Bridge program clinical coordinator Katie Fauth said these issues can involve anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. She explained that students enter Bridge for other reasons as well.

“Medical issues and concussions happen a lot in high school with sports or surgeries that can disrupt your life as a high school student and the normalcy you had before these things happened,” she said.

Falmouth High School senior Hannah went through the program twice during her four years at FHS.

She entered Bridge early in her freshman year after being hospitalized for an eating disorder.

Hannah said that it wasn’t just the support for classes that helped her transition back to school, but that she could talk to a counselor during the tough days.

“Having a licensed therapist to talk through what was going on that day was incredibly helpful,” she said.

Hannah was out of school again for part of her freshman year. She was then able to slowly reintegrate into classes because of Bridge.

“It was just an amazing midway point, so I didn’t have to immediately go back to fourth-quarter classes — end of school year, end of freshman year, with tests and finals. I didn’t have to go into this alone.”

Fauth said most students are back to their usual schedules within two to four weeks. Although some will accept Bridge’s full 8-12 week offers.

Once students become Bridge alumni, they remain involved when new students join the program, coming in for lunch or helping with homework.

Fauth said the alumni welcoming new students are a crucial part of the program, having a sense of community.

“This is something students can do that we can’t. It creates this peer-to-peer connection that all people are welcome here,” she said.

Massachusetts has over 140 schools in the same network as the Bridge on Cape programs.

Fauth said it takes a lot of buy-in from schools and their districts for the program to work. She said Falmouth increased Bridge staffing when it saw an increase in participating students after the first year of the pandemic.

Bridge has its own space within the ESF, consisting of two classrooms and an office.

Other local schools visited the Falmouth program to find out how they could introduce it.

Hannah explained why she thought other Cape schools should adopt it as well.

“I don’t think I would be graduating in the next two weeks if it weren’t for Bridge. I really don’t think I would have finished high school.”

The Bridge program supports the mental health of Cape Cod high school students

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