In recent years, the realities of mental health concerns and how they can impact teenagers has become more apparent to adults. Although students from all around the country are struggling with mental health disorders, few are actually being provided proper assistance. According to the Teen Treatment Center, one in five teenagers has a diagnosable mental health condition and only 30% of those students are being helped. This leads to grander problems, including neglect of studies, problematic futures, and even suicide. There is no denying that many students are being constantly bombarded with mental health struggles; yet, despite the objective facts, both civil and federal governments seem to be turning a blind eye to the uncomfortable topic of mental health. Our current education system would be a far more pleasant, comfortable, and accepting place if we made mental health resources more accessible to students.
Sound mental health is critical to students’ success in school. Research demonstrates that students who feel that they have social and emotional support are more likely to have better academic outcomes. If students learn coping mechanisms for dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues, they are in a better position to achieve their full potential. In addition, school climate, on-task learning, classroom behavior, and an overall sense of connectedness and wellbeing would all improve as well. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness; mental health encompasses the social, emotional, and behavioral abilities to cope with life’s challenges. When students feel supported and recognized, their struggles do not seem as large and are far more manageable, making school far easier. Left unmet, mental problems are linked to costly negative outcomes such as academic and behavioral problems, dropping out, and even delinquency.
As the age of technology and increased expectations for excelling at school have emerged in society, there is a growing and unmet need for mental health services for youth. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, one in five children and adolescents experience a mental health problem during their school years. These problems can include depression, anxiety, stress, family problems, learning disabilities, abuse of substances, and even bullying. Serious mental health problems, such as self-injurious behaviors and suicide, are also on the rise. These problems in youth are proving to be increasingly common, rising almost 10 percent in the last 15 years.
Schools are an ideal place to provide mental health services to children. Virtually every community has a school, and most youth spend at least seven hours a day there. Educational facilities also offer an ideal context for prevention, intervention and positive development as it serves as an escape from home lives; schools can also be an effective and safe place to foster communication between educators and families. Let’s not forget the largest reason why school is a perfect place for counseling… the cost! In the United States, a therapist charges over 200 dollars per session on average. For many families, this is unfeasible. If schools can provide a cheaper, subsidized alternative, more students and families may feel more comfortable and willing to reach out for help.
School mental health services also support the mission and purpose of schools: learning. The entire motive of schools is to cater to students’ needs and help them grow as academics and people. If students are not prepared appropriately to engage in the learning process, they will miss out on important educational opportunities.
School mental health support networks that encompass social-emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults are essential to creating a school culture in which students feel safe and empowered. When the emotional needs of students go unmet, it is equivalent to disregarding broken bones and physical diseases. If we continue to ignore the dangers that go hand in hand with mental health struggles, it will be a disservice to students who need appropriate resources in order to thrive.
– Maggie Di Sanza