6 thoughts on “Should We Have Mental Illness Screenings In Schools?

  • April 10, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Hi Amy,
    This is a tough one for me. Initially, upon seeing the title of your post, I thought “good idea” but I am not sure if that is the case once I think more about it.
    On the plus side, a mental health evaluation could potentially uncover things that need immediate attention such as a suicidal or homicidal student, a threat to the student body on a larger scale, bullying, abuse happening at home etc. However, as you pointed out, what kid wants to be singled out and summoned to go talk to a “shrink”? And, where would the funding come for such a thing? Would other things have to be cut to fund it? What about liability? Would the school assume any liability if the mental health clinician misdiagnosed or didn’t catch some warning sign and a child killed themselves in the interim?
    At the same time, I remember myself as a child enduring years of sexual abuse at home by my then stepfather. I had a teacher I sooo wanted to tell because I felt safe with her, she encouraged me in my writing (she was my language arts teacher) and felt I was gifted in that area and I think she felt SOMETHING was wrong but didn’t quite know what? But fear held me back! I’d hope nowadays that an experienced clinician would be able to develop a consistent and trusting rapport with a student and these things would be revealed but at the same time, I think you are referring to a one time –or very time limited evaluation rather than actual therapy on a regular basis.
    As someone who holds two undergraduate degrees in social services, I’d like to think the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks and that any potential logistical problems could be solved. For instance, to take away that stigma of being “singled out” make it mandatory across the entire student body. Explain beforehand why it’s being done, how it can be of benefit, confidentiality and it’s limitations etc.
    So I think over all, given the world we live in today, it is definitely worth a good try!

    Reply
    • April 10, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Very interesting points you made, Velveteen Rabbit. Well said. I understand what you are saying and agree that it would be great to take away the stigma and allow all students the opportunity for evaluation. My only concerns are these:
      1. Where will the continued help come from week to week? Day by day? We both know that it takes a lot of work and patience with the meds, therapy and getting to know the new you. And this is not something that we can have the PTA to volunteer their big, sweet hearts for some things that are bigger than the doctors who treat these issue.
      2. Parents in my state would be required to sign or decline a sort of medical statement. I can see many parents decline the psych evaluation. Based on experiences and terribly wrong stigmas, people will not want their children to be stigmatized ether. A blind eye will be turned to so many children in desperate need of mental care.
      3. It goes without saying that the already overwork social workers will be overloaded even still. There will not be enough money in the pot to increase their salary to where it needs to be, nor will there be enough shrinks to leave their practice and take a hit to their paycheck to the of around $110,000 if not more. Thanks for contributing.
      Amy

      Reply
      • April 12, 2018 at 1:14 am

        Hi Amy,
        I could definitely see parents saying no and protesting the screenings. I can also imagine for instance, an abusive or neglectful parent coaching their child if they were to allow the screening in the first place such as “You can go talk to that person but you BETTER not tell them your father hit you and left marks or you’ll REALLY be sorry!”
        Also, I totally agree about the monetary considerations and having adequate coverage from qualified providers.
        It’s a tough one and I don’t know that there are any easy answers but I do find it sad that money is a factor in the decision making regarding issues that could potentially be of benefit to kids who may otherwise fall between the cracks!

        Reply
      • April 12, 2018 at 3:40 pm

        I am applauding loudly during for your last paragraph! No easy answers, money is a factor in the decision making, kids who may otherwise fall between the cracks. Well said. That pretty much sums up the nature of our Country’s schools. Of course there are great ones out there. It just seems all we hear is about the bad schools and students. The fight for mental health, non-stigmatized, all inclusive and mental health education will be long and well worth it for generations to come.

        Reply
  • April 11, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Amy,

    I think mental health screenings would be very beneficial, however, I am not certain that schools are the most appropriate place to do them…mostly due to logistics….who will be responsible for giving the screening and utilizing the information to make referrals for additional support? I work for the 6th largest school district in the country …Broward County Schools in Fl. and our support services…School Counselors, School Psychologists, Social Workers and Mental Health Therapists are currently beyond maxed out in terms of caseloads. There would need to be funding for more support staff to tackle this additional responsibility with fidelity. I have recently read about pediatricians possibly requiring mental health screenings, which I think would be excellent.

    As far as students receiving mental health counseling in schools, taking meds, associated stigma, etc. I can speak for myself as a mental health counselor working primarily with elementary school students this year…there are usually 1 or 2 students that resist the support out of my entire caseload avg. 45…I have found that given the time to build rapport and explore resistance, these students often come around. The majority of my students look forward to our sessions each week and will make sure to ask me what happened if we missed a session due to meetings or what not.

    I have worked with high school students and have found greater resistance. Again, with time, many come around. However, in my department, it is expected that children with mental health needs be identified early on, receive the most services in elementary and reduce services as they get older (based on individual progress of course). I see my elementary students 1x wk…by high school we expect bi weekly sessions and even 1x month to check in.

    As far as medications and confidentiality, there are ethical guidelines that must be followed and addressed by school administration if there are reports of concerns.

    We are still living in a time where stigma exists. However, I believe we are making progress in reducing the stigma as research and real-life events including the devastation that has occurred in our schools due to gun violence has revealed the impact of both social-emotional support on our youth and lackthereof. The recent shooting in Parkland, Fl, in my very own school district, has caused tremendous suffering in our community as well as a call for serious conversation, evaluation and action to ensure that we are educating the whole child. Prevention in the form of social-emotional learning is at the forefront because we no longer have the option to turn our heads and say it’s not a priority…it is literally life or death.

    Reply
    • April 12, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Wow! Counselor2018,

      Welcome to the conversation. You made many, many good points. You know, if you have the right personality in the teachers or counselors and an inch of wiggle room, miracles can be experienced. You must be an amazing counselor to juggle 45 case loads successfully. I had that light in my eye and an enormous smile nearly 19 years ago. Teachers burnout. But, you know, it takes educators like yourself to make educating and mental illness ever happen. With the school shooting within your district, that stuff really hits home That event alone should make an interest and a strength to call out and bring people together. I have been stocked and threatened when I was a teacher. Compared to mass shootings, my situation was mere child’s play. I will pray for healing in your school district.

      Thank you for sharing,
      Amy

      Reply

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