School Mental Health Services in the United States

Posted by on May 6, 2006

[posted from Public Education Network newsblast]


It is common knowledge that few schools come close to having enough resources to deal with a large number of students with mental health and psychosocial problems. Schools report having many children and adolescents in need of assistance. For some schools, the numbers have risen to over half those enrolled. Given this state of affairs, it is poignant to see how low a priority schools assign in both policy and practice to addressing psychosocial and mental health concerns. According to a new survey of schools from the Center for Mental Health in Schools and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this arena of activity is extremely marginalized. As a result, interventions are developed and function in relative isolation of each other. The problem category that schools reported most frequently as a top mental health issue was social, interpersonal, or family problems. This problem was also most frequently reported to consume the most resources, followed by aggression or disruptive behavior and behavioral problems associated with neurological disorders. Depression was more frequently reported as a top mental health problem in high school (for both boys and girls) than in middle school, as was substance abuse. Most schools reported that they provide a range of mental health services, but these results are tempered by the fact that half of schools also reported that inadequate mental health supports in schools are a serious barrier. Financial constraints of families were reported by over half of schools as barriers to service. The majority of schools also reported that they provide school-wide or curriculum-based prevention and early intervention programs.

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