Why some schools are resistant to school-based mental health services. Parents, here’s how we can work together to change this.

The Center for Child Development is the largest provider of school-based mental health in the state of Delaware. We love what we do and are deeply appreciative of schools who have invited us in to help their students. Currently, we serve over 80 schools in Delaware. This includes public, private, and charter. What we’ve discovered is that there are many children in need regardless of where they attend school. Our therapists are on site at schools to address the emotional needs of children in a place where they spend the majority of their day–school. We help children in crisis and of course, provide ongoing weekly counseling.

Every day we enter the schools with the determination to help children feel better about themselves, improve their behavior at home and school, manage anxiety, feel less depressed or guide them through difficult transitions. Can we boast about it for a minute? Children love their therapists! They enjoy having that special person who spends time with them, listens and provides them with the skills to handle difficulties. Even the most challenging child looks forward to seeing their therapist and it’s wonderful when that happens.

Teachers have expressed how much they value having therapists embedded in their schools. They struggle with managing difficult behaviors or helping the child who seems to be struggling with anxiety or depression. Being able to suggest counseling as a resource, helps teachers. When a child gets better, their academic performance increases, too!

We are frequently amazed by schools who say no to school-based mental health. It’s puzzling because our services cost schools–NOTHING. We require a private space to see children and that the school identifies children in need. We’ve found that having a mental health professional in the school helps to make the taxing job of school staff a lot easier. School counselors are awesome, but they are overwhelmed. I call them firefighters because most of their day involves stamping out fires. They work hard and are typically the first line of contact for children who are having difficulties. They are the first ones to learn that a child is self-harming, suicidal, being bullied or using drugs. We work alongside the school counselor to help that child with their specific struggle.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that at any given time, in any school, 20% of a school population has an unmet mental health need. If your child is at a school with four hundred students, based on this statistic, 80 children have an unmet mental health need. That’s astonishing and concerning. Again, this puzzles us as to why some schools are resistant to therapists. It’s easy to identify children with behavioral problems, but there are so many who are suffering in silence.

We believe that the resistance has to do with the stigma of seeking mental health services. Here we are in 2018, and many in this society feel the shame of having emotional and psychological difficulties. Meanwhile, the suicide rate of children is increasing, and behavioral problems are off the chart; other children are struggling with anxiety and depression or the devastation of being bullied. We encounter these issues on a daily basis. While we are all aware of the more extreme situations of violence in schools, but some believe–“That can’t happen here.” We are here to tell you that it can, and there have been times where school-based therapists thwarted scary situations.

We strongly encourage school staff to not participate in the stigma of mental health services. If children are to get better, perform optimally in school, we are obligated to meet their needs on every level and can no longer afford to ignore their mental and emotional health. Kids don’t carry the same stigma around seeking help. It’s the adults in their lives that do.

If you are an administrator reading this post, we challenge you to get beyond the stigma and to avoid buying into the shame of mental health services. No one would avoid referring a child to a medical doctor for a health issue. Please think of mental health concerns as another part of overall wellness.

We hope you will reach out to discuss how CCD can help your school community. It starts with a phone call followed by a meeting to discuss logistics. You may reach us at 302-292-1334 x101. We’re highly responsive to the particular needs of each school, so let’s talk about what will work best for your building.

If you are a parent with a child in need, and we’re not in your school, please speak with your administrator. Advocate for your child to receive services on site. If your child is struggling so are others. Feel free to share our number 302-292-1334 x 101 with your school counselor or principal. We will take it from there. Please do not play into the stigma. We can prevent severe situations and help children to go on to live happier and healthier lives.