Mental health disorders common among students, but support is limited
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate as many as one in five kids experience a mental disorder in any given year, but the adults in these kids’ lives may not have the skills or the time to recognize it.
- NPR reports nearly 80% of children who need mental health services don’t get them, in part because the social workers, psychologists, counselors, special education teachers and school nurses who may be trained to recognize their symptoms have far higher caseloads than they should.
- Teachers, families and principals — all also busy — may not recognize the symptoms of mental health problems even if they notice them, leaving children without the supports they need.
A trauma-informed approach to teaching asks educators to consider what else is happening or has happened in a student’s life that might contribute to his or her behavior. Rather than assuming a student who falls asleep in class or doesn’t complete homework doesn’t care about the lesson, teachers might instead ask what is happening at home and find out the child is, for example, homeless. Students who don’t pay attention in the afternoons or on Fridays may be getting anxious about where they’ll find their evening or weekend meals. Digging deeper into these sorts of behaviors may uncover mental health problems.
While schools struggle with budgets, it is in many ways a question of priorities. The Riverdale Avenue Community School in Brooklyn, for example, has gone without a comprehensive after school program and a computer lab to be able to afford additional social workers.
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