When a family sends their kid off to school, they expect that school to protect and care for their child, and they do just that. However, schools tend to just care for their physical well-being, but when it comes to mental health, they often turn their back the other way. Now that it is 2022 and we have returned to in-person schooling after a year and a half, you would think that students have more access to counselors at school but that is not the case.
Mental health rates have really fluctuated over the years and the pandemic has really brought many people down. Mental health among young people has always been a problem prior to the pandemic, and poor mental health can even cause suicide for many reasons. According to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union titled “Cops and No Counselors,” the suicide rate among children from 10 to 17 increased by 70% between 2006 and 2016. Students are 21 more times likely to visit school-based health centers for treatment than anywhere else. But since many schools don’t have many school-based health centers students can’t go to talk to anyone at school.
Schools focus more on physical health than mental health and we know this to be true because schools tend to hire security guards and police more than school counselors. Schools have police who are trained to detain, handcuff, and arrest. This leads to a poorer school climate. The ACLU also reported that 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors. 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses. 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists. 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers. 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker. Many schools have security guards or police but barely any school counselors.
Students spend most of their time at school. School staff or the people that employ staff don’t seem to worry about adding more counselors which leads me to believe mental health is not taken seriously at schools. For example, at my school, we only have one counselor for 8-12th grade students. That is crazy because we have 800-900 students and for all those students there is only one counselor. Schools don’t take time to talk to students about mental health and how to take care of it.
Also, bullying is overlooked and it can contribute to a decline in mental health too. When students are bullied it can lower their self-esteem and it can cause depression and anxiety. Most of the time schools don’t do anything but when the student ends up committing suicide then that’s when they want to take it seriously. In an NPR article written by Meg Anderson and Kavitha Cardoza, they talk about a girl named Katie who was diagnosed with bulimia and depression and her teachers thought that she didn’t care about her school work. The teachers didn’t notice that people bullied her and that something was wrong with her. She was an honor roll student and always helped out the teachers but when all of that stopped the teachers didn’t see anything wrong with Katie’s behavior. Not one staff member asked “What’s wrong,” and it made for a horrible school experience.
Schools need to do better when it comes to the mental health of students and there are many ways to improve. They can start by adding more school counselors, making it so that for every 20 students there is one counselor. Schools can add mental health breaks and talk to students about mental health and how to care for themselves. Teachers should also talk to students and not just worry about teaching but worry about students’ well-being. Bullying also needs to be talked about amongst students because it has contributed to suicide and mental health issues.
Someone could say that if schools aren’t providing enough mental health attention students should get a therapist somewhere else and that they should take immediate action with the school. But at school, those services are free and you don’t have to pay extra money for your child to see a counselor. Children spend most of the day and week at school so they would have more time to see a counselor and get the help they need. Schools are given money for school counselors and to care for students’ mental health but they are still understaffed and mental health is not cared for. Yes, it is true that if students don’t get mental health care that they can get it elsewhere but school is one the biggest causes of depression among students and they should get their care at school.
Do you get enough mental health attention at your school? If not, know that you can make a change. Talk to your principal or if you have a student government, bring it to them. It is important to stand up and advocate for mental health. Schools don’t take mental health seriously and they need to start to.