Youth mental health issues have become a public health concern in the USA. Unfortunately, it is an area of healthcare often ignored until schools and parents have started taking youth mental health seriously. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five American children is at risk of mental health issues like mood and anxiety disorders, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, and behavioral problems.
If left untreated or undiagnosed, mental health issues in children can impair their cognitive abilities and affect adulthood. Unfortunately, despite the large number of children affected by mental health issues, there is a wide gap between treatment and diagnosis.
To address the gap, schools need to hire mental health counselors. It ensures safe and timely treatment for children with budget constraints or those from families where mental health is stigmatized. School mental health counselors also ensure that schools are the providers of primary mental health care. Here are six reasons why a school should hire a mental health counselor.
Role of a school mental health counselor
Children spend more time in school than in their homes these days. They take classes, engage in extra-curricular activities, or hang out with friends. While school life is enjoyable for most, it can be traumatizing and scary for others. School is also where children might encounter bullying, gun violence, stress, and behavioral issues. While teachers are most in contact with children, they lack the skills or knowledge to help them deal with mental health issues. That is where the role of a mental health counselor comes in. These days it is easier to acquire a masters in mental health counseling online no GRE required. Thanks to e-learning, it’s convenient for psychology practitioners to specialize in mental health counseling from the comfort of their homes or while they juggle a daytime job.
Schools are a familiar environment for children compared with a counselor’s clinic or office. Children often hesitate to meet with doctors and dentists; therefore, the idea of visiting a child psychologist might startle them. To counter feelings of awkwardness, it is in the child’s best interest if they see a mental health counselor within the boundaries of their school. A school is a place they are most familiar with outside the home. School is where they have friends and teachers, so visiting a healthcare provider in school would seem less scary. It’s also convenient for a therapist to work inside the school as it would give them a clearer picture of the environment their counselees are in and struggling with.
Families have direct access
With the current economic situation, healthcare seems like a burden to many parents and families, despite its importance. Treatment like psychological therapy, if offered at school, will ease the burden on parents. Parents won’t have to drive their children to the counselor’s office. It is particularly true for working parents who find it challenging to schedule appointments and reach them on time. With a mental health counselor at school, parents feel more connected with their child’s therapist. They can visit and communicate far more quickly than if it was a clinic.
Opportunities for mental health education in schools
One of the main benefits of having a psychologist on-site is that there is room for open discussions. School is where children learn and adopt harmful behaviors and influences, whether from teachers or peers. With a practicing therapist on board, schools can arrange sessions for teachers to prepare and train them to confront a bullying incident or help children overcome homework stress. A counselor in school can also train teachers and staff to manage their stress so that it doesn’t transpire on the children. In addition, schools can hold sessions and discussions with parents regarding talking to children about mental health and its issues more openly with a psychologist on board.
Opportunities for early intervention
Since school is where children spend most of their time apart from home, schools are often the first setting where children encounter trauma or negative influences. With that said, a school mental health counselor can intervene early and reduce the delay in diagnosing and treating mental health issues. Family members, teachers, and friends notice changes in behavior and actions in children before anyone else. Seeing the warning signs early on and beginning a diagnosis or treatment can speed up recovery. Unfortunately, most children in the USA struggle with treatment, even after an accurate diagnosis. The lack of treatment is due to income constraints, limiting beliefs about mental health, or lack of access to the right resources. Therefore, an on-site mental health counselor can help deal with the situation early on.
As mentioned earlier, school staff can better understand child mental health issues with a therapist on school grounds. Instead of disparaging behavioral and mood issues in children as tantrums, teachers and staff can try to understand what it is and how to help. For example, it’s common for children to be labeled as “nosy,” “attention-seeker,” or “aggressive” in school by their teachers or other staff members. However, labeling harms the person being labeled and, in some cases, might exacerbate their condition. For instance, teachers labeling a child with a mood disorder as “aggressive” may put them at the edge of showcasing more anger and violent behavior. However, with mental health practitioners on school grounds, teachers can readily discuss these matters and look for a solution.
Help with destigmatizing mental health
Apart from home, the second place children learn the most about the world is their school. Children adopt and learn most behaviors and values from their friends and teachers. Therefore, it’s important to hold conversations on mental health in schools. If we start telling children that it’s okay to cry, be angry, or feel helpless at times, we’d be far better off at tackling mental health issues among them. Nowadays, children have a higher emotional intelligence quotient. They are more in tune with their emotions and understand how to express them. However, what some children might have resistance towards is therapy or counseling. With a therapist on board, your school can destigmatize those beliefs about mental health counseling. Perhaps, then, children would be more comfortable approaching the therapist with their concerns.
These are some of the many reasons why hiring a school mental health counselor is crucial today. Parents and children can benefit from counseling services in school due to their convenience, direct access, and early intervention. School staff and teachers will also benefit from having a mental health counselor on school grounds. The school staff can acquire the support they need to address and assist children struggling with making sense of their emotions and mental health.