Next assignment due: mental health

A person stresses over issues regarding their academic life and personal life while at school. According to NPR, as many as one in five students show signs of a mental health disorder. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A person stresses over issues regarding their academic life and personal life while at school. According to NPR, as many as one in five students show signs of a mental health disorder. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Mia Badillo, Co-Editor-in-Chief

According to the University of Michigan Counseling and Psychological Services, over two-thirds of young people do not talk about or seek help for mental health problems.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, discussions pertaining to the already existing mental health crisis came to the forefront. 

While we were all in lockdown, many individuals suffered from psychological distress linked to anxiety and depression. 

Specifically, the introduction to socially distanced learning presented a myriad of issues for students of all ages. 

In a commentary on an analysis regarding the pandemic’s effect on mental health, clinicians led by Dr. Danielle Dooley said, “These immediate, visible consequences of school closures are harbingers of long-term outcomes, including decreased life expectancy for U.S. schoolchildren.”

With a vast majority of students back in the classroom, we cannot ignore the fact that now, more than ever, schools need to provide students with sufficient mental health services to meet their needs. 

Come back later

Due to the lasting impact of the pandemic on the labor force, many schools in America are unable to fill the position of a school psychologist. 

According to data published by the United States Department of Education, there are 1,211 students per school psychologist. 

This information is unsettling considering that the National Association of School Psychologists recommends one professional for every 500 students.

Out of the 50 states, Maine is the only state that meets the standards. 

Differing from the national standard, the Texas Education Agency recommends one professional for every 250 students, a goal that 98% of Texas school districts fail to meet.

This could be a consequence of the fact that Texas does not provide funds specifically for hiring school psychologists, meaning that school districts rely on funding from federal, local, and charitable organizations.

As a result, it becomes difficult for psychologists to provide an individual with specialized care, assuming a student is even able to make an appointment in the first place. 

Trust issues

Aside from the problematic student-to-counselor ratio, we could assume that school counselors are trustworthy and qualified enough for students to confide in.

But is providing students with a counselor really the only outlet that students have to receive help?

Sure, having a counselor is far better than nothing, but there is so much more we could do to ensure that students are in a secure mental state.

Dr. Rita Moreck said, “Many students may not trust school counselors to keep confidentiality.

Additionally, they may not trust the counselor due to invalidation. 

When seeking help, the last thing a vulnerable person wants to hear is that their issues aren’t real or bad enough to warrant whatever reaction they’re having.”

These obstacles only exacerbate the situation, further contributing to the stigma surrounding mental health which discriminates and isolates individuals. 

Whose problem is it?

Some people believe that schools should not be held responsible for assisting troubled students. 

However, it is important to acknowledge that one conversation with someone who is struggling with their mental health can save their life. 

On top of meeting deadlines, concentrating in class, and studying for exams, students may have a lot more on their minds than what appears to be obvious. 

Progress over perfection

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to create a safer space in schools by promoting the knowledge of psychological health.  

Students, faculty, and staff must go through basic mental health training. 

By no means does this mean that we should learn how to diagnose these issues because, frankly, most of us do not have the qualifications to do so. 

But if we are trained to acknowledge red flags and react appropriately, we can create a support system where we are dependent on one another. 

Schools can take promoting positivity one step further by setting aside specific times for focusing on mental health. 

Some examples of activities that students could participate in include open-talk sessions, mindfulness practices, athletic activities, art lessons, and reading time. 

Lastly, by making mental health a part of the school curriculum, schools would be able to raise awareness through a specific class.

Senior Hanna Bolanos said, “I really do believe that a psychology course should be offered to everyone.

I know that studying psychology doesn’t guarantee it will help you solve your problems, but I remember when I took psychology, the teacher was a psychiatrist, so I remember feeling more comfortable talking to him than to the counselor.

So it would be great if a psychology course offered by an actual psychiatrist would be available for every grade.”

Becoming mental health warriors

It is time for all of us to join the fight in helping students realize that they are never alone. 

There are an infinite number of ways to help improve the mental health of students, and little changes always have the potential to make a big impact on their lives. 

If we take these extra steps to overcome the stigma surrounding mental health and promote mental well-being, we can normalize that it’s okay to not be okay.