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Op-Ed: The nation's schools must address mental health

December 24, 2013|By Randy L. Goulet

There is no question that there are problems in our public schools that our politicians, teachers, and parents are not willing to address. With another school shooting in Littleton, Colo. and gun-safety laws going nowhere, the need for increased funding for national mental health services in our children’s academic institutions should be a priority. Passage of the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 would be a step in the right direction to address this urgent issue.

As reported by the National PTA, in our country alone one out of five children and adolescents suffer from mental health issues, with over 70% of them going untreated because they either cannot afford care, lack access, or do not know anyone they can turn to for help. Of those receiving care, up to 80% of these children/adolescents receive care at their school, basically making these schools in reality a mental health provider.

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This high volume of untreated mental health issues can present a multitude of problems, not only to the people involved, but to the cities and schools in which the children live. Increased preventive mental health services in schools is the key to better educate and identify troubled kids before it is too late. Identifying and treating youth should be a priority due to the fact that 25% of American youth have experienced adverse childhood experiences or a serious traumatic event by their 16th birthday, with many children suffering multiple and repeated traumas. Regrettably, the negative consequence of poor childhood mental health extends to almost all aspects of adult health, making it cost efficient to address this problem now.

Despite much American persistence to address mental health issues in the form of gun control, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano's plan of investing in preventive mental health care could give many young people throughout our country a better future. Without help, youth with untreated mental illnesses are more likely to fall victim to crime, drug abuse, imprisonment and suicide in later life. The Mental Health in School Act of 2013 is part of a solution which will provide increased federal funding for therapists and mental health services in our schools and communities that desperately need it. This bill will assist youth with preventable mental illnesses get the access to the medical services that they need.

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