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This may be one of the largest silent epidemics the world has ever had. Students and teenagers everywhere are depressed. Up to one in five children show signs of depression or some other mental disorder every year. The worst part is, nearly 80% of the children with a mental disorder don’t reach out to get help. Schools may play a role in the issue. All children and teenagers must go to school. Children and teens spend a lot of time in the classroom and with their educators – enough that the teachers and students know each other fairly well. Teachers see their students and can see how they react with other children, so they should be able to see the signs of mental disorders pop up, right? Well, many teachers don’t exactly know the signs, and even if they do, they never ask a simple question: “Are you alright?”
This simple question could turn someone’s attitude from suicidal to happy. An example used by NPR Ed. in Mental Health in Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions of Students is Katie. When Katie was 8 years old, she had to transfer schools in the middle of the school year. She didn’t have friends to play with at recess, and didn’t talk to anyone. Other kids called her fat and rejected her. She began cutting herself, and missing school. Within the span of a month, she went from Honor-roll to failing. Above all, teachers didn’t bat an eye. They didn’t care and never noticed when she was missing or how she acted. No one asked her the simple question, “Are you alright?” She would have told them if they had just asked. She told her therapist she wanted to die, and that every day was a bad day. She was administered into a hospital.
Many things could have been done to stop this. The family could have asked and told the school, but they didn’t. The teachers could have asked and raised a red flag with the social workers, but they didn’t. If the social worker did find out, they would’ve called the parents. However, there aren’t enough social workers to tackle on the amount of kids. Many things could have helped these people notice the symptoms, too. If teachers had more training in mental disability and mental health, they could have noticed and done something before it was too late. If there were a larger amount of school psychologists, counselors, and nurses, Katie could have gone to them. One of the main reasons for these things not being true is lack of funding. Schools need more funding to get the teachers this training, which, in the long run, would be worth it. They could notice the signs and know exactly what to do and how to handle the situation at hand. But they don’t. No one wants to fund the schools for them to get this training. The other main issue is that they simply don’t care. Educators don’t care enough to try to get the funding. They don’t care enough to ask. They also follow the rules given to them, which is to focus on academics and academics only. So, how can this be fixed, once and for all?
Ideally, a school psychologist could be added to regulate the students mental health. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends that there is at least one school psychologist per every 500-700 students, but, even then, the psychologist would have a very busy work day. In U.S. public schools today, it is estimated there is one psychologist per every 1,381 students. Obviously, this is an issue. More funding to give the teachers proper training in mental health would also help a lot, by getting them to recognize and understand the signs and how to handle the students if they are going through a tough time. Another solution is to up the amount of counselors and nurses in schools. According to the American School Counselor Association, there should be one counselor for every 250 students – yet this would still cause a very busy work day for the counselor.
For nurses, the National Association of School Nurses and the National Association of State School Nurse Consultants recommend there be a school nurse for every 750 kids – again, causing a very busy work day. However, a recent study conducted by the National Association of School Nurses suggests that only 39% of public and private schools meet this requirement by having a full-time nurse. If schools were properly staffed for children’s and teens mental health, this would not be an issue. However, because of funding and lack of care, there simply isn’t enough talk about this subject, causing nothing to change. Spread the word of the “Silent epidemic” to get children and teens the help they deserve. You can share this article or contact your local representatives to get the word out about this crisis.
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