Julio Avael is passionate about supporting the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents and young adults. This passion led to a multi-decade career in providing mental health services for those in need. In the following article, mental health management in the US school system is discussed, as well as an overview of the various available services provided through the school system.
In the current age, many children and adolescents are facing mental and emotional health issues. While there are a wide variety of reasons for this, parents are looking for help from their children’s schools in mitigating and managing the mental health of their students.
Most public schools now offer mental health service options to their students, but there is little data to suggest how much these options are used explains Julio Avael III. Counseling, case management, and outside referrals are the most common types of mental health management seen in school districts.
Mental health can impact all aspects of a person’s life – especially a school-aged child. Here, Julio Avael details the average public school system’s mental health management tools in the US.
Mental Health Management in Schools
From childhood to young adulthood, students spend the majority of their day at school. It occupies their time five days a week for several hours a day. A school system can be a child or adolescent’s first access point to mental health management – as long as the student knows such opportunities exist.
Julio Avael explains that a well-funded and established school-based mental health services can improve access to care and treatment. Having the chance to take an active role in improving student mental health leads to better attendance in the short term and improved mental health management in the long term.
The Varying Quality of Mental Health Services in Schools
Julio Avael III reports that school-led mental health programs can be a mixed bag. The quality and type of counseling, for example, can range from telehealth to in-house mental health professionals. However, some providers may not be licensed professionals in the field of mental health, or there may be an entire team of professionals at the ready.
About 96% of public schools were confirmed to operate at least one type of mental healthcare service. The most common of these services include:
- Case management or mental health service coordination
- Referrals for external care
- Individual-based interventions, such as professional therapy or counseling
Unfortunately, only one-third of schools offered screening and outreach services for all students. These are crucial for identifying mental health needs and arranging treatment according to Julio Avael.
The school system usually employs a ‘wait to fail’ method of identifying mental health issues. Students are only referred for screenings when they are showing considerable emotional, behavioral, or academic struggles. However, this can overlook students who do not show immediate difficulties but still require mental health intervention explains Julio Avael.
The reason many schools do not offer these screenings comes down to a lack of resources and funding. Assessing and finding providers that can administer and analyze the screenings proves to be another obstacle.
Early identification and treatment of mental health is crucial for young people to stay in school and become productive members of society. More often than not, treatment or intervention at the earliest signs of mental health situations can prevent delays in important, effective treatment and worsened conditions. It’s also less costly for schools to intervene in the early stages – and early intervention can prevent or ate least help to mitigate more serious issues later on.
Schools that have employed staff to observe the early warning signs in an emerging mental health condition can swiftly connect that student to the services they may need – as well as implementing family counseling services if necessary, explains Julio Avael III. Referrals to community-based therapy services may also be suggested, provided the student and the family are intent in pursuing this therapy.
Underserved Community Outreach
Investing in school-based mental health treatment, counseling and other therapeutic services is critical in low-income or underserved communities – where costly mental health services, outside of the no-cost services provided in school are less-likely to be attained.
By removing the barriers of private therapy facilities and providing these services in school reduces the need for families and students to find transportation to appointments and reduces the scheduling conflicts many community providers may face. However, those who do unfortunately suffer from more serious needs may not be able to get the care and treatment provided by a school and may need to search out a more individualized based therapy.
The current state of school mental health management has its share of positives and negatives. While many institutions incorporate mental health services, students may be unaware of them or have not been referred by a teacher or parent.
Julio Avael III states that screening for mental health issues at an early age can be a massive step in the right direction for long-term mental wellness management.
The goal of school based mental health awareness is to catch the warning signs early on, provide counseling, and suppress the need for more serious intervention later on in life. Hopefully, by ‘normalizing’ the stigma of counseling or therapy at a young age, makes the recognition of mental health needs later on more approachable and recognizable by the individual themselves to take action.