Should mental health concerns be managed by the school?
Numerous statistics – and the students themselves – point to the significant struggles that many young people in the United States are facing. In an effort to help, federal and state governments are allocating millions of dollars in new funding to cover everything from training more providers to running mental health awareness programs.
Advocates suggest that the school building is the most accessible and least scandalous place for mental health support. Others, however, are concerned about how much work schools, which are often under pressure, can handle.
“You need to ask some basic questions about what we expect from this thing called school,” said Robert Pondicio, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank American Enterprise Institute of Education. “No one is advising that school children should not be concerned about the overall well-being. But is it the right place in civil society for mental health services?
The recent expansion of offers has encouraged further discussion about the ethics involved in supporting students – how much school and mental health should be cut and where the watch should be. A school board in Killingley, Connecticut, for example, drew the line this year to allow the superintendent to set up a mental health clinic in a high school.
Determining what services will be provided to schools is a question that “needs to be answered 14,000 times in 14,000 local school districts,” Mr Pondicio said, adding that he would disagree on the proper use of government dollars for mental health in publicly run schools.
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According to an analysis by the nonprofit National Academy for State Health Policy, in the first year and a half of the epidemic, 92 state laws were enacted to address the mental health of young people through school-based programs. Includes funding related to the Federal Gun Protection Bill passed by Congress on June 24.
President Joe Biden wants to double the number of mental health professionals in the school. According to the White House, the use of American Rescue Plan funds to increase recruitment has already resulted in a 65% increase in social workers in schools and a 17% increase in counselors compared to before the epidemic.
Nevertheless, most schools are understaffed. The American School Counselors Association, for example, recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 1: 250. The association reported that the national average for the 2020-21 school year was 1: 415.
The shock of recent activity is being driven by experts – and the students themselves. The U.S. Surgeon General issued a youth mental health crisis warning in December 2021. According to the Harvard Youth Poll’s 2022 Spring Survey, nearly three-quarters of young Americans say the entire country is experiencing an experience. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns debuted this week on PBS in a two-part program, “Hiding in Plain Sites: Youth Mental Illness,” which tells the story of more than 20 young people in the United States.
“When we ask families and students, most prefer to get support in the school building because of the proximity and convenience. Students and parents are less likely to miss time from school and work, and many families say it’s less scandalous. ”
Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School of Mental Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Various theories have been circulated among researchers about why mental health is declining, including the impact of social media, changing parenting styles and climate change, social justice and political polarization in a seemingly unstable world.
Schools are a natural place to solve these problems, many Americans say, because mental health services exist there year after year. In 1969 the National Association of School Psychologists was formed. School-based health centers that provide pediatric, dental and mental health services in schools also began in the 1960s and 1970s.
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Academics and others are experimenting with new ways to meet students’ mental health needs – or reinventing old techniques.
“When we ask families and students, most prefer to get support in the school building because of the proximity and convenience. Students and parents are less likely to miss time from school and work, and many families say it’s less scandalous, ”said Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
A 2017 survey of mental health services in elementary school by researchers at Florida International University found that “school-based services have shown a small to medium effect in reducing mental health problems, with the largest impact found for targeted interventions.”
Dr. Hoover says the research supports the establishment of multilevel systems in schools. In this model, schools provide more targeted, intensive support for students identified as needing universal lessons or wellness tests and additional support for all students.
The way it looks at school changes.
For example, all students in a school with a multi-level system receive “level one” support, such as classroom lessons or assemblies on mental health awareness. A small number of students identified as in need of “Level Two” support may participate in group sessions led by school counselors to deal with grief or stress. Even a small number of “Tier Three” students receive more intensive treatment, such as personal therapy with trained school staff, or referral to an outside provider.
The American School Counselors Association, for example, recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 1: 250. The association reported that the national average for the 2020-21 school year was 1: 415.
In a database run by the National Center for School Mental Health, about 15,000 schools self-report that they have comprehensive school mental health systems. This is about 15% of K-12 public schools in the United States.
Hawa Kabdullah, a rising senior at Brooklyn Park in Minnesota, has seen her high school, which has 3,000 students, promote mental health support even more since the epidemic began. It can take months to get an appointment with the school’s sole psychologist, but teachers now allow students to walk more during class and adjust assignment time shifts if necessary. The school has also created a break room for the use of eligible students.
“Things are getting better with mental health resources over the years,” he says. “I think the main problem is that adults don’t listen or some people who have the ability to change things don’t want to spend money on it and don’t want to improve the normal lives of people affected by daily mental health struggles.”
Related: A district goes through a flood of socio-emotional curricula to find one that works
Even before the epidemic, extended calls for measures such as public screeners, or wellness tests, were raising concerns about students’ privacy records. Some Florida parents are concerned that their children’s mental health records will be kept against them after the state enacted a law in the wake of a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 so that schools must notify a child when enrolling new students. Referred to for mental health services, according to Kaiser Health News.
“From day one, parents and family members should be at the table to see how students can access visits, how schools agree to the service, and how schools and providers should inform families if a student has a positive screen,” said Dr. Hoover. “Families should have a choice of how and where they get mental health support.”
Informed consent and clinical competence are two ethical issues that mental health providers and families should be aware of when considering giving or receiving mental health treatment in a school setting, says Jeffrey Burnett, professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland.
School staff need proper training and supervision, he said. For example, if teachers run a public mental health screener for students, “Are they being trained or seen as another job to increase their workload?” He believes students and staff should all be trained in mental health awareness and know what referrals they can make if someone shows signs of needing help.
“No one is advising that school children should not be concerned about the overall well-being. But is it the right place in civil society for mental health services?
Robert Pondicio, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank focused on education.
Mr. Pondicio of the American Enterprise Institute says a feature of the school is to ask teachers to take additional training on mental health and to include more social and psychological lessons that are expanding essentially without adequate testing.
“I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the mission creep, that we are changing teacher jobs to focus on the mental health and well-being of children as educators. It’s one thing to bake it and another thing to make it a part of the curriculum, “he said.
Dr Hoover suggested that responding to students’ needs should be a “public health approach”. In it, schools provide lessons on controlling emotions for everyone as well as creating quiet corners for students in buildings. This could mean building broader partnerships with people outside of school, including community health providers, faith groups and other organizations important to young people.
“Our young children’s mental health school psychologists, social workers, counselors can’t and shouldn’t fall on their shoulders,” said Dr. Hoover 6 “It really should be a shared responsibility of everyone, including families, teachers and students. They want to help each other. ”
© 2022 Christian Science Monitor
Made this story about the role of mental health in schools Christian Science MonitorIn collaboration with “Supportive Students: What’s Next for Mental Health,” as part of the project Hatchinger report, A non-profit, independent news organization that focuses on inequality and innovation in education, and the Education Lab at AL.com, The Dallas Morning News, The Fresno B, The Post and Courier, and The Seattle Times. Sign up for Hatchinger newsletter.