One in five children and adolescents have some debilitating mental illness in their lifetime (Educators & Providers). Some would say that is a shocking number, but what is even more shocking is the fact that almost two-thirds of children are not getting the proper help they need (Educators & Providers). In Frederick County alone the population consists of almost 24% children under the age of 18. When the math is broken down, that means there are about 58,887 children in Frederick County (Population Estimates, July 1, 2015, (V2015)), of those numbers almost 12,000 of them have or are going to have a mental illness (Educators & Providers) and that is why mental wellness is a huge topic of concern in today’s news. Children are not getting the proper attention they need in terms of proper mental health.
Without suitable mental health, not a single child can focus and set goals towards education and academics when it comes to learning in school.
There are things as a community that can be done to help children under 18 in Frederick County Public Schools. Together with proper education, funding, awareness, planning and commitment a change can be made. Without a change to mental health awareness, children in Frederick County will suffer. They will fail. They will not be prepared for life after school and ultimately will come to more than one demise. It is of key importance to change how the educational system works in terms of mental health. The students are not just grades and a statistic, they are people with emotions, feelings and have personal lives outside of school that affect their wellbeing and behavior in school.
Once a change is made, the children in the community of Frederick County will be more successful, healthier, happier and more determined to do well. It will take the help of parents, students, teachers, faculty and the head of FCPS to make this change for better. A proactive approach needs to be taken like the one in Fairfax County, VA. In Fairfax County, after several suicides in the student body the school board realized that a system was needed to help children handle mental health more properly (T, Rees S.). The community needs to understand that this movement in mental health needs to be a cooperative one. Fairfax County since the tragic events has managed to take the efforts into their own hands and use psychologists, social workers and counselors to aide in developing children and teenager’s mental health (T, Rees S.). As a community, Frederick County Public Schools can do something like Fairfax County to incorporate ideas like a “less stress week” and provide thorough education on mental wellbeing. Furthermore, education and awareness needs to play a huge role in changing the stigma of mental health illnesses.
While raising awareness, and providing education is extremely beneficial to improving mental health. Frederick County needs a way to manage and help children in need. The sake of their future depends on a plan and a solution. The most important task that needs to be done is the proper incorporation of school therapists. The term “proper” is used because in Frederick County Public Schools there are school therapists in certain schools, they are in seven school locations for students “who require intensive special education and therapeutic services” (Special Education). There are students in all age ranges and in each Frederick County Public School who could use a school therapist. When it comes to down to guidance counselors, such as ones in secondary schools, they are swamped by scheduling, grades, transcripts, letters of recommendation and college and career goals while they are supposed to have time for “personal/social development”; but that often is hard to find time for. The community is in dire need of school therapists with proper background and ones that are readily available to all students, not just those in “The Pyramid Program” (one of the seven locations previously mentioned) of Frederick County.
If each school had a school therapist with the correct background and training, guidance counselors would be less stressed and could spend more time on academics while conversing with the school therapist in case of an incident when a student is not academically achieving because of a mental health issue or family life conflict. There needs to be a personalized approach guided by multiple people. Once school therapists are established in every school, behavior and student achievement rises immensely (Research on School Counseling Effectiveness).Counseling services provide emotional, social and/or behavioral resolutions, which in turn develops clearer focus towards success (Research on School Counseling Effectiveness).School therapists can incorporate both individual and group sessions and create access to “school-based mental health prevention and intervention programs can help reduce non-academic barriers to learning” (Bohnenkamp, Jill H.).
School therapists and counseling services in school are of huge importance and prevalent to children’s success and future. According to Chamberlin, “mental health services are the fastest-growing component of school-based health care. In the last 10 years, the number of school-based health centers with mental health professionals on staff has more than doubled.” Now that mental health is gaining more prevalence and attention schools should modify their missions. Take Linganore High School’s mission into consideration, “to equip students for life-long learning through lessons in academics, accountability, and attitude” (Welcome to Linganore High School).To complete this mission, mental health must be in check and properly taken care of. Everyone in the school and the community will need to come together to accomplish life changing aspirations and goals. Wouldn’t you agree that a sense of safety and assurance would be guaranteed if everyone pitched into this movement of better mental health? Would you want your child to suffer alone and helpless? I wouldn’t. Together we can ensure that children are more content, influential and on the right track.
Once there more school therapists and school counselors guiding the future of mental health in a positive and productive way, then we can add useful solutions to gaining better mental health such as adopting the idea of mindfulness classes in all schools, even elementary schools. The schools could offer a class on mental wellbeing as part of health education and or physical education. In Cane Run Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, instead of desks there are yoga mats that line the floor (Oaklander, Mandy). The lights are off and there is a background sound of water. This setting and class guides the children through relaxation exercises. This allows the students to be in the present and to take in their surroundings. In Frederick County Public Schools, a similar approach to mindfulness classes could be taken and could show results such as increased academics, increased determination and skill sets. Mindfulness classes show other exciting and promising results,
“Although research on mindfulness in children is still preliminary, studies show
that it can help kids who have anxiety and trouble paying attention with their
schoolwork, behavior and stress regulation. First-through third-graders who were
taught mindfulness and breathing techniques had fewer ADHD symptoms and
less test anxiety, one study found. Even for kids without these issues, mindfulness
has been shown to increase kindness, sleep quality and even math scores”
Similarly, another class type that could be exceptionally beneficial to Frederick County Public Schools is art therapy. Art therapy combines knowledge and understanding of human development, psychological theories and techniques with visual arts and the creative process to provide a unique approach to help improve psychological health, cognitive abilities, and sensory-motor functions (About Us – American Art Therapy Association). Art therapists use creativity and art media to develop “interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight” (About Us – American Art Therapy Association). Matt Keating, of The Guardian, after researching and studying art therapy effects on children realized that this is a massive opportunity that should be offered in all schools.
There are students who have unmentionable conflicts and obstacles in their life that affect them every single second, and majority of the time someone with the proper authority at school doesn’t know about it. Art therapy can be a solution. Read the following, “In a classroom full of art materials a 14-year-old is tearing paper, twisting it, and sticking it together. For the most part, she stays silent. The therapist also remains mute, not wanting to intrude into this very private space. When the teenager does speak, she tells of her father being nursed at home, dying from cancer; of how she is putting on a brave face; and of the great burden her mother is carrying” (Keating, Matt). When life throws challenges at someone, handling by oneself isn’t the right way to fix what they are constantly thinking about. Therapy of any sort, whether that is art therapy or not, provided by schools will lead to better futures. Students will be prepared for anything if they are mentally in a stable state. Everyone has experienced an event in their life that bogs them down and interrupts their concentration so this will be helpful change that aides every single student.
Children are fragile and growing. All children are developing and need support. One person in Frederick County whom does her best to make sure children are getting the best and proper mental health is Ann Hammond, supervisor of psychology for Frederick County Public Schools. Ann Hammond has a great deal of insight, she believes that each school should have a school therapist on sight because “…20% of students have a diagnosable mental illness that could respond well to therapeutic interventions. In addition, therapists could provide prevention and support for improved school wide climate.” Ann Hammond also believes that “education and communication about illnesses and disabilities are almost always a good thing to increase understanding and reduce stigma”. Ann Hammond mentioned that the school therapists in the seven public school locations of Frederick County are a “critical component” of successful transitions in student development.
With that being said, change can be good. The change in mental health protocol and awareness would be one that saves the lives of children. It would lead to a new future of success and less stress. A future of pure knowledge and mental capacity like no other. The future could result in a bright new beginning if school therapists were in every school. Mental illnesses would go down, and the help that those two-thirds of children need would be available.
“About Us – American Art Therapy Association.” American Art Therapy Association. N.p., n.d.
Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Bohnenkamp, Jill H. “Supporting Student Mental Health: The Role Of The School Nurse In
Coordinated School Mental Health Care.”Psychology In The Schools 52.7 (2015):
714-727. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Chamberlin, Jamie. “Schools Expand Mental Health Care.” APA, 2009. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
“Educators & Providers.” Children’s Mental Health Matters Educators Providers Comments.
N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Hammond, Ann. “School Therapist’s Role in Mental Health in Frederick County.” E-mail
Interview. 17 Nov. 2016. (Pending)
Keating, Matt. “Matt Keating Reports on the Educational Benefits of Art Therapy.” The
Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Nov. 2007. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
“Welcome to Linganore High School.” Welcome to Linganore High School. FCPS, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.
Oaklander, Mandy. “The Mindful Classroom.” Time 188.13 (2016): 44-47. Academic Search
Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
“Population Estimates, July 1, 2015, (V2015).” Frederick County Maryland QuickFacts from the
US Census Bureau. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.
“Research on School Counseling Effectiveness.” – Research (CA Dept of Education). California
Department of Education, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
“Special Education.” FCPS Facilities Documents (2015): 202-20. Web.
T, Rees S. “After Fairfax County Student Deaths, a Renwed [sic] Focus on Mental Health.” The
Washington Post Feb 24 2014. ProQuest. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
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