The Essentiality of Mental Health Services in Schools

As more students are diagnosed with mental health problems, are schools doing enough to help?


Photo by L. Chandler

Guidance counselor, Lauren Jones, speaks to a student in her office.

Leah Chandler, Student Life Editor

High school is universally known as a stressful time and can lead teens to struggle with their mental health. While this issue is common, it may be hard to come to terms with mental health issues and contact help.  According to the National Association for Mental Illness, nearly 20% of people K-12 suffer from a mental illness.

The original role of school guidance counselors was to help students learn about social issues and find the right career paths for them, but now they must address the multitude of problems stemming from mental disorders. Christi Foster, a mental health counselor at Spartanburg High School, aids students in coping with everything from anxiety to depression and becoming the best version of themselves. She believes that it is crucial to have a safe place for students to go to school.

“Unfortunately, my job is not a common one.  There are so many moving parts to being a high school student. It is vital that there is a place for students to go where they feel safe and heard,” Foster said.

A student-made poster colorfully displays awareness for depression. (Photo Illustration by S. McQueen)

With schools spending funds on other aspects of creating a high-quality learning environment, the ratios between counselors and students nationwide are stretched thin. In rural areas and big cities, the student-to-counselor ratio has reached its limit, thus making it more difficult for students to get the help they need. In some schools, there are over 400 students to each counselor. Around the nation, schools’ youth are in need of assistance and schools aren’t providing enough resources.

Sophia McQueen (10), who was in Coach Chase Lear’s health class last year, created a relatable, artistic depiction of the battle between one and their mental illness.

“My inspiration for the poster was reflecting some of the struggles I had in the past and to show that you never truly know what other people are going through,” McQueen said.

According to a study by Matt Barnum with education news site, it was discovered that there were more resource officers and security guards than mental health professionals in today’s schools. This study found that in places such as Clark County, Nevada, there were four security professionals for every one counselor. In cities such as New York, both occupations are increasing in employees with 250 counselors being added in the last few years. Safety is a huge priority in America when it comes to school, especially in the modern era.

While technology and safety are important to any school, it is crucial to make sure students are getting the help and attention they need. According to Dennis Parker, director of ACLU’s racial justice programs, mental health assistance can lead to an overall safer school environment.

“The best way of preventing violence…is by creating an environment that is rich in support for students. Counselors play a really important role in that,” Parker said.