The Importance of Prioritizing Mental Health Policy Paper
Since the start of the pandemic, 46% of parents say their teen has shown signs of new or worsening anxiety or depression, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine. Abrupt social distancing and stay-at-home orders, proven contributors to loneliness and isolation, as well as fear and worry about their health and that of their loved ones were leading causes of decreased mental health among adolescents. Due to this, students’ relationships with adults and peers that remained strong before the pandemic appear to be strained in recent times. The same is seen with engagement with learning. Even more shocking, 60.1% of adolescents across the nation have not yet received proper treatment for worsening mental health conditions. The problem here is poor allocation of mental health resources, mainly school psychologists.
The lack of funding and resources MCPS garners towards mental health support and treatment is clearly shown through the allocation of school psychologists in the county. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends that districts employ one school psychologist for every 500 to 700 students. Based on the 2021-2022 Psychologist Assignments by School, Gaithersburg and Montgomery Blair high school with enrollment populations well over 2,000 students are only supplied one school psychologist. With Montgomery County’s psychologist to student ratio being far from what NASP recommends, psychologists will have significantly less time and means to focus on student’s who could benefit from their prevention and intervention services. When students do not have these outlets to talk openly about their stressors, their problems are kept bottled up inside, forcing them to consider negative outlets of stress release as extreme as suicide.
In order to address the influx of worsening mental health conditions for students due to the pandemic, MCPS should work towards hiring School Psychologists and implement them where they are needed most. School Psychologists help improve students’ mental health and provide adequate support for each student who needs it, which leads to better performance in school. According to a research study in Journal of School Psychology, secondary schools implementing School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS), an intervention system used by School Psychologists, had lower suspension rates and higher reading and math proficiency rates. School Psychologists are trained to support each student's various learning needs, promote students’ problem solving and conflict resolution, and overall improve students’ well-being in an educational setting.
While public health actions were necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the isolation left many students with various mental health challenges. Limited in-person interaction meant even less support from school counselors and psychologists when students needed it the most. In order to combat this national-wide mental health crisis, MCPS must invest and allocate resources to ensure the well-being of its students.
Rogers, Lindsay Smith, and JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Teen Mental Health During COVID-19.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 17 May 2021, https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/teen-mental-health-during-covid-19.html
“How the Pandemic Has Impacted Teen Mental Health.” National Poll on Children's Health, mottpoll.org/reports/how-pandemic-has-impacted-teen-mental-health.
“Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression
“The Value of School Psychologists.” National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), www.nasponline.org/research-and-policy/advocacy/the-value-of-school-psychologists.
“Who Are School Psychologists.” National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), www.nasponline.org/about-school-psychology/who-are-school-psychologists.
2021-2022 Psychologist Assignments by School. https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/departments/studentservices/mentalhealth/2021-2022%20Psyc%20Assignments%20by%20School.pdf
Written by Aves Hasrat & Saaya Nair