Take a six-year-old Utica, NY, boy, for example, who almost got suspended from school due to disruptive behavior. But what teachers soon found out was that his behavioral issues were a product of a fear of bathrooms, cultivated from experiences of abuse at home.
According to Grace Guzski, director of community service at The House of the Good Shepherd, an organization that works with schools to help children succeed, sometimes all it takes is a little awareness and understanding.
“I really think the mental health piece affects the child throughout the school day,” Guzski said. “So I think you need to have a good understanding of where the student is at emotionally.”
In this boy’s case, once the educators learned how to deal with the boy’s trauma, he started to excel.
And similar situations are transpiring all around the country on a regular basis. Namely, students that are battling with mental health issues.
Yet despite this burgeoning issue and the fact that the nation already spends $113 billion on mental health costs every year, there is a serious lack of funding in schools for the education and proliferation of awareness regarding mental health.
Typically, schools grapple with students’ mental health problems in a number of ways, doing so by hiring social workers, working with mental health-related non-profit agencies, hosting school-based health centers that offer complimentary counseling, and holding support groups.
But these efforts need a boost, and two bills pending in New York State’s legislature could help to be just that, placing new requirements on schools to address students’ mental health needs.
The dramatic impact of mental health is playing itself out so much more pervasively in school than it used to,” said Glen Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State. “And what’s our response — to be cutting clinicians and to take away services when it should be just the opposite, that we need more services and support.”