Mental health issues in schools have been on the rise, and, unfortunately, school-based mental health services aren’t always equipped to deal with the students’ needs. If you’re worried that your child is struggling with their behavioral health, it can be hard to know how to support them when they’re outside of the house for the majority of the school year.
While it takes a licensed mental health professional to make a diagnosis and design a treatment plan, it’s important to be aware of the state of mental health in schools and understand the warning signs of a child who is struggling with mental health issues.
The Mental Health Crisis In Schools
Mental health issues among adolescents have been on the rise in private and public schools. While there were already rising numbers of youth mental health issues before the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption it caused has increased mental health challenges dramatically. In 2021, there was a 40% increase in visits to children’s hospitals for mental health issues than there had been in 2020.
School districts are seeing a rise in fights among students, as well as an increase in students feeling negatively about themselves at younger ages. School climate and school safety have also been negatively impacted to the point where many American school staff and school psychologists can not support students’ mental health needs.
School Mental Health Services
The mental and behavioral health services offered in educational environments vary from school to school. In response to the increased need for support, some schools are educating their staff with professional development centered on social and emotional learning to assist with the growing mental health problems among young people. Trainings also include education on suicide prevention and mental health advocacy. However, these trainings are not standardized across school districts.
There have also been partnerships between community behavioral health providers and social workers who work with the Department of Education to help supplement the lack of school nurses and school counselors in charter and public schools. However, there is still a lack of funds and available mental health providers/special education services on many campuses. The main challenge to developing a comprehensive school mental health system in many districts is a lack of funding and personnel.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded more than $88 million to address the American mental illness crisis. This grant will go to a range of services, including developing more supportive schools throughout the nation. To facilitate this, $42.2 million was allocated toward training school staff to identify and respond to mental health issues in school students. There is also a push for an extension of Medicaid services to cover mental health support services in schools.
Detecting Issues in Your Children’s Mental Health
When it comes to diagnosis and treatment, conferring with mental health professionals is necessary for any important decision-making. That being said, it’s also imperative that caregivers are able to detect potential issues so that they can find appropriate mental health care for their children.
Some of the most common mental health issues and disabilities that young people struggle with include anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, ADHD/ADD, substance use, and eating disorders.
Signs and Risk Factors for Mental Health Issues
If you notice several of the behaviors mentioned below, then it could be a sign that your child is in need of mental health support:
- Your child becomes quiet or withdrawn; they are isolating themselves from others.
- Your child’s weight has been changing rapidly; their eating habits have changed drastically.
- Your child no longer seems interested in hobbies they used to enjoy.
- Your child is struggling to pay attention; they cannot sit still, they fidget and have been speaking quicker than normal.
- Your child is more irritable than usual; they have frequent outbursts.
- Your child has trouble sleeping, frequent headaches and stomach aches.
- Your child suffers from excessive worry, they fear going out or even going to school.
- Your child exhibits signs of low self-esteem; they make negative comments about themselves.
- Your child expresses thoughts of self-harm and/or suicidal ideation.
*If your child is harming themself, or expressing thoughts of wanting to end their life, it is important to reach out immediately to a mental health provider. Immediate 24-hour help is available from the Suicide & Crisis Hotline (formerly a national center known as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 9-8-8.
LGBTQ+ children are especially at risk for thoughts of suicide and self-harm, as well as those who have gone through traumatic experiences or suffered from racial- or gender-based discrimination.
Seeking Mental Health Professionals
If you are worried your child may need mental health treatment, there are a number of avenues you can take to find a licensed therapist. If your child attends a supportive school, the school psychologist or guidance counselor may have a list of local therapists. Additionally, you can talk to your primary care provider or your child’s pediatrician, and they can make a referral to local mental health providers.
It’s important, when looking for a mental health professional, that you ask the provider what experience they have with children and adolescents. Also, ask about the kind of treatment they provide and how often they meet with parents. You should make sure that you are placing your child’s well-being in the hands of someone who is compassionate and has competence with the issues young adults are facing.
Mental Health Professionals Who Care
Mental health in schools is an important topic – all young people deserve supportive school environments and access to mental health support. At Meridian HealthCare, we are committed to offering comprehensive mental health treatment for all.
We believe that your child’s mental health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance, and we’re here to help. Our therapists provide evidence-based treatment plans and specialize in working with adolescents to overcome mental health challenges. If you’re worried about your child’s behavioral health, don’t hesitate to reach out to get the support you need for your family.