., Demler, O. (2005) reported that 1 in 5 children have a diagnosis of a mental health disorder in which this health crisis interferes with their ability to function properly in their daily lives. Research shows that the number of children with mental health conditions continues to rise, however, often these children are not receiving the proper care to address these mental health needs. Freeman, E. V., and Kendziora, K. T. (2017) reported that “about half of children with emotional and behavioral challenges receive no mental health treatment” (p. 3). School districts can play a very important role in assisting students with providing children access to early intervention services to help address mental health concerns. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can help children reach their full potential (Brueck, 2016). Untreated mental health problems can disrupt children’s functioning at home, educational setting and in the community. Without treatment, youth with mental health issues are at a higher risk of low academic performance at school, involvement with the criminal justice system, dependence on social services, and possible suicide.
There are some benefits to having mental health professionals in the schools. The mental health professionals can collaborate with the school system by providing support, training, evaluations and evidence-based interventions. Whenever appropriate services are put in place to support a young person’s mental health needs, there tend to be better outcomes in academic success. Brueck (2016) reported that early diagnosis is key to ensuring children are linked to proper services at a young age to help reduce mental health challenge (p.1220).
This policy brief will provide support for growing need for mental health programs in the school systems, which would create a chance for underserved youth to obtain early intervention and treatment and, also provide effective training for staff within the school system. Mental health conditions are often seen as a presenting factor to other social problems such as violent crimes, drug use, poverty, abuse/neglect, etc. It is critical that youth are identified and assessed at an early age and provided services to help overcome challenges and live a productive life.
The increase in gun-related incidents in schools and suicide among youth creates an opportunity to explore issues regarding the need for school-based mental health programs. Both gun violence and suicide could be linked to unmet mental health needs in children. Several school systems have failed to address mental health needs in the school setting. Chamberlin (2009) reported that addressing mental health needs is not a priority for most school administrators and Congress and funding is often limited. There continues to be a rise in school violence especially with children who exhibit psychotic behaviors. The availability of guns to students, especially students who are suffering from mental health conditions, is continuing to expand (Paolini, 2015, p.6). The number of suicide by teens continues to rise. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the most prevalent causes of suicide is mental illness and that 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016. Seventy- five percent of youth who display psychotic behaviors do not receive mental health treatment (Paolini, 2015, p. 5)
The public stigma regarding mental health is very concerning. Per Mukolo, Heflinger, & Wallston (2010), youth with mental health conditions are often stereotyped as violent (p. 7). The stigma continues to exist even when the person’s condition is stabilized and treatment is conducted. Mental health services and providers are often seen as the target of stigma which creates barriers to effective services. Parents often do not see the benefits of seeking treatment. Paolini (2015) reported that its critical that schools help educate students and parents regarding mental health awareness and link families to resources to help address mental health needs (p.6). Schools can be responsible for empowering students and parents about mental illness and creating a supportive and encouraging school environment. There is a great need for collaboration with the school systems and mental health professionals to address this crisis.
Historically, Congress has created policies to address mental health needs in children, however, funding is often not readily available. In 1986, Congress passed the State Comprehensive Mental Health Services Plan Act. In 1992, The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was initiated and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) was mandated as part of the policy. Another effective policy was the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act of 2015. Currently, The Mental Health School Act of 2017 is a policy that will create the opportunity for funding for school-based mental health centers.
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