Archive for January, 2021

School-Based Mental Health

January 4th, 2021

School-based mental health services are sorely needed to deal with mental health issues that are often barriers to learning. Such services need to be a critical component in schools to combat barriers to academic success. Unfortunately, schools are often poorly equipped to deal with such problems. Because states tend to bundle educational and mental health services, funds are directed primarily toward education and not treatment. In many school districts communities are also lacking in emotional support services and families do not have the means to purchase needed medical insurance to support outside treatment. Transportation to mental health clinics may not be available. Parents are often reluctant to send their children out of district to such centers. School psychologists are overloaded with assessment responsibilities while school counselors deal mostly with classroom problems, college applications, and day-to-day crises. Additional services from trained psychologists, social workers, and psychiatrists are badly needed to treat emotional problems and for prevention of future problems.

A number of studies report on the prevalence of mental health problems in children. A report of the Surgeon General (1999) indicates that 20.9 percent of children and adolescents, aged 9-17, have mental or addictive disorders. Other studies support the statement that one in five students in school may have mental health concerns. At least two to three students in every classroom may have emotional problems of varying degrees of severity. One estimate is that 4.3 million students nationally suffer from mental illness that impairs their functioning at home, in school, and with peers. A report by Katoka, Zhang & Wells (2002) indicates that 78 percent of children aged 6 to 17 with mental disorders and 88 percent of Latino children do not receive needed mental health care. Mental health concerns are likely to increase in response to the recent economic downturn.

Mental health is not only the absence of mental illness but also includes the skills needed to deal with life’s challenges. Emotional and behavioral health problems represent serious barriers to academic success and behavioral adjustment in school. Children and adolescents with emotional problems have the highest failure rates; fifty percent of such children drop out of high school. Emotional disability is the fastest growing special education in schools. In Ohio, one in five high school students reported seriously considering a suicide in the previous twelve months. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and is considered a public health crisis by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Federal and state requirements mandate that schools attend to mental health issues since behavioral problems are treatable. Students who receive social and emotional support and decision-making skills have better overall grades and higher standardized test scores. Youth who received mental health services in schools showed significant reductions in psychiatric symptoms as measured by both parent and teacher ratings., Trained therapists serving on a consultant basis coordinate their efforts with school counselors and social workers. The cost of their services is often offset by savings from maintaining students in public schools who might otherwise need to attend more expensive specialized private facilities at the expense of the school district.