PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December - Page 23

THE STATE OF STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH
LGBTQ students , for instance , have reported higher levels of emotional upheaval , in part because they find that schools are often a safer space with appropriate support for them , more so than home or their community .
More than half reported increases in mental health referrals and counseling . that should be the case . The stigma has really decreased .”
Milakovic also notes that certain segments of the student population have likely been more severely affected . LGBTQ students , for instance , have reported higher levels of emotional upheaval , in part because they find that schools are often a safer space with appropriate support for them , more so than home or their community . Others with disruptive home circumstances are also high-risk .
Sharp says that while counselors have seen an uptick in concerns from students and their families , outside services also have been overtaxed . He notes that in one recent statewide survey of 40 service providers in the state , about a quarter were not taking new clients and another 13 % were putting students on a waiting list .
He said he is concerned about data showing that outpatient provider client levels for young people were peaking at unprecedented rates in late spring .
“ I had a student whose parents were physicians
who began looking for outpatient psychiatric services for the student at the beginning of the school year last year and only found something as the school year ended ,” he said . “ There were long wait lists , or no new clients being taken for outpatients in May , which is unheard of in the past . The concern is that the rates for late spring would indicate even higher rates in the fall .”
The bright side
Milakovic says , however , the pandemic has helped to broaden understanding and normalize the issue of mental health among young people .
“ One of the silver linings is that people can talk about mental health , almost as well as you might talk about a physical health issue . And
That may mean students are more willing to discuss their problems , adults are more likely to take them seriously and policymakers may give student emotional health more attention .
Dr . Sharon Hoover , co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health , has said that she has seen a similar trend . Her organization has developed a free ClassroomWISE program designed to train school staff about creating a safe and supportive classroom environment and identifying and addressing mental health concerns .
Milakovic and Sharp use similar language as they talk about the mental health concerns of Pennsylvania students . First , they note that more resources for additional counseling and support services are important .
Federal COVID-19 relief funding included $ 122 billion for K-12 schools to implement “ strategies to meet the social , emotional , mental health and academic needs ” and President Biden ’ s budget proposal released in April includes another $ 1 billion to add nurses and mental health services in public schools .
But they know that school districts also are wary of simply adding staff , especially if the federal money dries up or if the issue diminishes or changes over a time . And they ’ d like to see longer-term , structural change .
Milakovic said PDE wants to help districts use data about specific needs in their districts to determine how to address the problem , which can vary widely depending on the school and community environment , demographics and other characteristics .
November / December 2021 PSBA Bulletin 21