Addressing Mental Health Issues in Schools

11 Jan

Lately a large focus of the news has been address mental health, rightfully so after the recent events at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other schools across the United States in the past decade. A lot of speculation and research has been focused on what we can do in schools to approach the issue of mental health and how to help these events from happening. 

As I am sure you have noticed I am not speaking about gun control and issues of background checks, but be assured this is not due to the fact that I don’t think that is also an issue and needs to be approached but simply because writing about both of these would be much too long of a blog to read. 

Many of these articles I have come across have some frightening statistics, for example, approximately 25 percent of children experience a mental health disorder annually, and 40 percent of adolescents meet lifetime diagnostic criteria for multiple mental health disorders (Merikangas et al., 2010a; Merikangas et al., 2010b; Kessler et al., 2005). This is reason enough for some change to start happening. There are countless programs out there to address some keys issues, for example what tends to come up a lot in these programs is creating an open environment for anyone suffering from a mental health issue and to make other students aware of how to use empathy and sensitivity when interacting with children who suffer mental health issues. Many of these programs give break downs of what should be done on a daily basis and what programs need to be started in the school system. While that is all well and good I am continually coming across the same issue with each of these articles. 

Who is it that is implementing and following up on all of this?

Who is coming out to help said person understand the program? 

Now if your first thought is to say the guidance counselor I have a few concerns with that. As I am currently studying for my PhD in counseling there is one thing I have learned recently, school counselors are not required to be licensed counselors. Not to diminish at all what these people do, their job is just as hard as any counselors, but unfortunately without a license there are a great deal of key things a guidance counselor can’t do, ironically enough one of those things is to provide interventions. So where do we go from here? To simply do countless hours of research and write out an article is not enough, there needs to be nation wide requirements for schools to help students suffering from mental health issues so that we do not have to face another Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or any of the other senseless acts. 

– Sara 

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