U.S. K-12 schools should overhaul mental health programs

By Samantha Moffett, COLUMNIST
On September 4, 2017

The U.S. school system needs to prioritize the mental health needs of its students, or children with psychological disorders will continue to fall through the cracks.

There are currently 15 million school-aged children in the U.S. battling a mental disorder every day, as reported by the American Psychological Association. This harsh reality faced by handicapped students needs to spark a change within school systems to prioritize mental health issues.

According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, mental health issues often emerge during childhood, and it is imperative to recognize the early signs. The center also reports that children suffering from mental health disorders often exhibit disruptive behavior in the classroom, but sending a child home from school early can be counterproductive.

Not only does punishing a child in this way cause them to fall behind in their schoolwork, it can also interfere with the parents’ work schedules.

While many schools attempt to individualize lessons to help children with mental handicaps, most schools do not focus on this issue as heavily as they need to.

Also, the schools with mental health programs in place are often flooded with too many cases and insufficient resources. This deficit is reflected in a statistic reported by the Association for Children’s Mental Health, which states that a staggering 80 percent of children with mental health disorders do not receive proper care.

School systems and parents that fail to recognize the early symptoms are letting these children fall through the cracks. In the same way that schools require physical health checkups, mental health needs to be evaluated with just as much importance.

Furthermore, the U.S. Library of National Medicine suggests that younger children are more likely to internalize problems to fit in with their peers, which can cause children to have more severe breakdowns in the classroom when they become frustrated.

Whether treated for their disorder or not, because virtually all students are held to the same performance standards, they are expected to come to school and act as though their mental health is something separate from their learning habits. That is simply not the case.

Teachers should not be taught one universal way of approaching every child in their classroom, but rather different ways that cater to various learning styles and psychological challenges. When school systems begin to put a heavier emphasis on recognizing and addressing the needs of students with mental health disorders, students will find the ability to learn and apply information more effectively.

This concept is widely supported by educational psychologists and is explored in depth in “Mental Health Practices in Today’s Schools,” a manual on educational psychology written by Raymond Witte and G. Susan Mosley-Howard, tenured faculty members of Miami University’s College of Education.

Mental health can be misunderstood in today’s society, and those with psychological disorders often suffer in silence — this is especially true for children. There is consensus among the psychology community that the time is now for school systems to address mental health disorders within their student bodies and provide help to those who need it.

 

Samantha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.

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