Schools have found themselves in a particularly difficult situation these days. Student’s mental health issues are reaching a fever pitch, leaving school administrators grappling with how to put a system in place for adequately dealing with it. We need to understand that as of today, public education's fluency in handling mental health situations is not up to par. Schools were never meant to be places to recieve or deal with mental health support for students. Now they find themselves having to evenly weigh effective education and proper student mental health management in ways they never imagined.
Within any given school there is hopefully one school psychologist and possibly one social worker. In fact, having two full-time resources to manage student mental health issues is considered exceptionally well staffed. Many schools only have one, and possibly that resource is not dedicated solely to one school. When you consider that according to the NIMH, “An estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 12.8% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17.” With these numbers it is clear to see that one full-time person in a given school could never deal with every student mental health issue that may come up in a given school year.
Communication Around Student Mental Health Is Still Not Effectively Managed
When one of your students reports to someone that they are feeling depressed or expresses a plan for self harm, what happens? Chances are, students who are identifying as a high risk for self harm have a much more concrete action plan in place with school administration. This is troubling as students who only identify as experiencing depression may actually have a plan in place for self harm or harm to others without anyone knowing about it. With so few resources in a typical school system to deal with student mental health issues, it’s easy to let some students fall by the waist-side who may not appear to one faculty member to be an urgent matter to deal with. Faculty members are making decisions like this every day. Having an error in judgement regarding student mental health could prove to be disastrous.
Where does a faculty member or school administrator go to to record and note information for a student with an identified or suspected mental health issue? The problem lies in part around the sobering lack of a way to effectively report, follow up, and keep track of student mental health issues in schools. If your student were in a mental health facility there would be a digital record to keep track of detailed notes for anyone who came in contact with the student during their treatment. There would be weekly supervisory oversight as to the quality of care for the student, and their treatment team would be assessing their progress and making adjustments as they went along. Such a plan of action does not exist in the public school system at large for students with mental health issues today. Imagine what could happen if it did?
Most students with identified mental health issues are working with someone outside the school system regarding their treatment and any medications that are being prescribed for mental health symptoms. Do you know who your students’ mental health professionals are? Unless your student is part of a IEP or a 504 plan, you could conceivably have no idea what medications they are taking. This also presents a unique challenge for school administrators trying to stay ahead of the curve with student mental health issues, namely medications that could be given to other classmates or abused by the student who has been prescribed.
School Faculty Needs To Communicate About Students With Mental Health Issues
If there is anything positive to be done in the growing student mental health crisis, it is getting faculty and school administrators on the same page with students who are dealing with mental health issues. There has to be some way faculty can communicate with outside mental health professionals who are working with a given student to discuss changes or when things seem to be devolving for the student suffering. Faculty must have some way to alert school administration with troubling information and have someone actively following up on it. But how?
eCare Vault was specifically designed to build teams around students who need a collaborative approach to their learning experience, in this case mental health needs. Now is the time for school districts to align with the practices already in use with outside mental health organizations to help their students get the help they need and succeed in their learning environments. The student mental health crisis in your school district is not going away, but you can feel more confident about how to deal with it starting today.