Building Stronger Mental Health for Kids
FMCCS enhances learning experiences for K-12 students to develop skills for life-long success.
Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are an unmet need in our community. Before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide. COVID-19 further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community. The effect on their mental health has been devastating. According to a local child psychologist, referrals for treatment in our community went from 1800 in the year before the pandemic to 7800 during the pandemic.
Our teachers, social workers, counselors, and behavioral specialists witness mental health issues daily. We are experiencing an increased number of behavioral referrals and children suffering from depression, anxiety and fear. There have also been an increased number of behaviors involving criminal activity, such as bringing a weapon to school.
These challenges are real and are not limited to students from disadvantaged or minority families.
This grant will provide seed money to help provide materials and resources for screening and supportive mental health counseling for our students and families. Isolation and loneliness from the pandemic have disrupted important peer relationships and connections with adults. Students are struggling more than ever with healthy social and emotional learning skills because of decreased protective factors and limited pro-social opportunities caused by the pandemic.
The school corporation has partnered with local community mental health agencies to provide support services generally not covered by Medicaid or commercial insurance. However, there are waiting lists for mental health services with these agencies as well as other mental health clinics and providers in our community. Due to waiting lists and the lack of immediate mental health services our school social workers and counselors are often the primary behavioral health support for our students and families.
This grant’s impact will be immediate and long-term. The Youth Services Bureau in Monroe County has declared a rise in anxiety and depression. Our children have experienced loss and grief, not just from death, but from the loss of familiarity and normality. During the pandemic social media was a lifeline for many students, but countless hours on social media can create a false sense of what reality is. The pandemic also put many children at home with guardians who were not equipped to manage their care.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) and resources for screening and supporting mental health counseling will positively impact our youth. Research shows that students who receive SEL training have higher school graduation rates and lead a more productive healthy adult lifestyle. SEL skills and strategies students learn stay with them, even protecting against future problems like emotional distress and drug use. Building stronger mental health for our children is critical.