It’s summer but education officials across Maryland are evaluating how to provide more mental health services for their schools while not breaking the budget.
Mental health with children and teens is complicated by the variety of social and emotional needs. First, there are heightened instability issues at home today to confront in many cases. There’s also new forms of bullying inside and outside of school to work through. There are complicated learning differences and disabilities, which inevitably lead to anxiety for many. In severe cases, there are suicidal tendencies needing expert attention.
Anne Arundel County announced this week the creation of a mental health task force to examine how the school system can better address the issues they are facing within their middle and high schools primarily. One of the critical goals is some sort of overlapping coordination of services between the school and at home. In most cases, simple services at school will not be enough to address the concerns of a child. There will need to be home services and even providers outside the home.
In Worcester County, the problem is real. Data shows a 71% increase in youth accessing mental health services in the county from 2016 to 2019. Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor has reported mental health issues and the demands associated with them among the student body remains a top priority for the school system. This month, thanks to grant funding through the state, the school system will host a two-day training session, “Psychology of School Threat Assessments,” to educate staff on the psychological and hehavioral aspects of threat assessment and management.
Additionally, Worcester County has moved forward with the creation of a mental health coordinator position, “to establish and implement mental health supports in meeting the needs of students such that they are able to access their instructional program.” The individual will create critical professional development programs for teachers.
Teachers are routinely being put in situations outside their comfort zones and beyond the boundaries of typical educator roles. Rather than focus on the matters of curriculum and instruction, they are oftentimes serving as guidance counselors and behavioral therapists. This is not healthy for the teachers, who in most cases already suffer from the grind of their daily work life without absorbing a role they are not trained to serve.
There will be no easy fix for addressing these mental health issues, but the only non-option is to do nothing because the problems are here to stay.