Why Mental Health Should Not Be Taught in Schools
The idea of teaching mental health in schools is an attractive one. In addition to providing students with an education that helps them understand how to deal with stress and other emotional difficulties, the collective educational effort to recognize and address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can also foster compassion and empathy for youth. Yet, studies suggest that many students who experience a wide range of ACEs do not receive adequate support to overcome those difficulties. Moreover, delays in seeking help lead to worsened conditions.
Collective education about ACEs fosters compassion and empathy for young people
While adversity is not exactly new to the schoolyard, what is new is that educators are taking note. According to a recent survey by the AEA, more than one in seven children in five states has been through the trauma of it or two. Fortunately, the good news is that there are ways to prevent and treat these maladies. Educators should take the opportunity to demonstrate compassion to their students with a little forethought and some open communication. The best way to do this is to start small and expand from there. This is a particularly important task in light of the recent national teacher strike. With an eye on the prize, teachers can better equip their charges to tackle the real world.
A multi-year study of more than 7,000 teachers found that students who are consistently well-rested and emotionally supported are less likely to experience adversity. In turn, they are more likely to exhibit positive social and emotional skills.
Delays in treatment lead to worsened conditions
Delays in treatment aka delays in care have been linked to an array of health complications. For instance, a delay in diagnosis may lead to a late stage cancer diagnosis, or worse yet, to a terminal illness. Additionally, a delay in treatment can lead to the development of physical and psychiatric comorbidities. So, if you or a loved one are suffering from a health condition, make sure to consult a medical expert to assess your options.
The most notable effect of a delay in care is an increase in the risk of death. In the United States, an 8-week delay in breast cancer surgery has been found to be associated with a 17 percent increase in mortality. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid or minimize this risk. Some of these include a timely referral to a cancer specialist and early implementation of a multidisciplinary approach to patient care.
Impact of mental health issues on student performance
When students are facing mental health challenges, it can affect their academic performance. Students may feel less motivated and proactive and may not want to take on new challenges. A lack of enthusiasm can also lead to lower engagement with peers.
An increasing number of studies are showing that mental health problems and other forms of stress are impacting student performance. Although the mechanisms are not clear, it is likely that factors associated with mental health issues work on both an individual and institutional level.
In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of mental health challenges among college students. For instance, students with severe mental health challenges have a four-fold increased risk of having a low grade, and are twice as likely to have a delayed study progression.
The relationship between mental health and academic performance is complicated by different factors. One of the reasons is the presence of stigma. If more students understand that mental health is a legitimate issue, more of them will consider seeking help. It is important that universities provide mental health support.
Ensure access to school-based mental health resources
Schools play a vital role in ensuring children have access to the mental health resources they need. A comprehensive school mental health system promotes positive school culture and ensures students’ mental and physical wellbeing.
The Department of Education has launched two grant programs to help schools improve access to school-based mental health resources. Both programs provide grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) and support innovative partnerships.
The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration program supports the hiring of additional school-based mental health service providers in high-need school districts. This program provides competitive grants to SEAs and high-need LEAs. Each year, the average award ranges from $400,000 to $1,200,000.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided historic funding to increase the number of school-based mental health professionals in the United States. In addition to the funds, the Act provided incentives for states to improve Medicaid coverage of school-based services. Currently, only a minority of families in poverty have access to quality mental health services.