Guidance Counselor Crisis: Students & mental health

Although 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment, in any given year fewer than 1 in 3 of these children receives needed treatment, according to the Surgeon General.

For many students, school counselors are the most fundamental access to mental health treatment in the form of a listener.

“My day might begin with a certain plan, but if it comes to my attention that an individual has written a note indicating some suicidal tendencies, then my plan goes out the door,” explained Niles High School Counselor Joan Langmeyer.

Recent school shootings have highlighted a growing mental health problem in the United States, but not the solution.

“It’s still a taboo to even mention that they have depression or anything of any kind,” said mental health advocate and retired South Bend teacher, Pat Herr. “So you can imagine with children and with teens the last thing they want to be different from anybody else that they go to school with... and the awareness is still not there today.”

And in a time when access to mental health treatment is becoming more and more crucial in schools, counselor numbers are dwindling.

“You would have greater odds, same thing with students in the classroom, the odds of them being able to personally connect with that student are greater just as if the counselor has fewer students that they are working with,” said John Young Middle School Counselor Laurie Schalliol.

While budget cuts are unavoidable, many mental health advocates say counselors could be that saving link in our nation’s schools.

“If we could get these budgetary concerns into alignment,” said Herr. “I think we would see how crucial counselors are to listening, picking up behavior and getting students the treatment they need earlier.”

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