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A recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) makes a case for more mental health professionals–including nurses and social workers–in schools.

From the report:

School counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, traumatized, may act out, or may hurt themselves or others. This is especially true in low-income districts where other resources are scarce. Students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for treatment than anywhere else.

There are so many moving parts and pieces when it comes to a child’s mental health. Do they feel loved? Do they feel safe? Are they learning ethics and morals at home? Are they being taught how to treat people with compassion and respect?

For some children, the answer is no. When any one of these moving pieces get damaged or disappear, there can be long-term damage to a child’s mental well being. And for the most vulnerable children in schools, they may have untreated illnesses or insufficient food. They may not have a consistent place to live or get enough sleep at night.

By some reports, up to 72 percent of children in the United States will have experienced at least one major stressful event—such as witnessing violence, experiencing abuse, or experiencing the loss of a loved one—before the age of 18.

Any one of these factors can contribute to poor social behavior in schools, or worse, suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the suicide rate among children ages 10 to 17 increased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2016.

The American School Counselor Association recommends the following:

The benefits of a high counselor-to-student ratio are better attendance rates, fewer suspensions/disciplinary actions (including expulsion), better academic improvement and higher graduation rates. A 2018 study of student well-being and school climate made a case that schools that take counseling seriously have improved school safety as well.

If you don’t have mental health support in your children’s schools, ask why. If you mentor children–whether that be for work, in your community or in your home–pay attention. If something seems off, or if you suspect they may be in a volatile situation at home or at school, help them to get help. It is so important to protect kids and help them feel safe.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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