Super Mom Monday: Addressing mental health issues with students

WATERFORD, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Our Super Mom report is looking at what some are calling the silent epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five kids will show symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

The National Institutes of Health says most of them, nearly 80 percent, who need mental health services, will not get them. This is why educators in the Capitol Region are taking action.

Chris Scanlan is the principal at Waterford/Halfmoon Junior-Senior High School says he recognizes that his students’ mental health is of greater importance today.

“We ask our students to do a lot throughout the day. So when they’re bringing things in from home, that aren’t so good, and we’re putting more demands on them, we know that can be a lot for a young person to carry.”

Kelly Denvir, the school psychologist for the district, says this issue is nothing new, but the heightened awareness and how schools are responding is.

“In the past those students were more segregated,” Denvir said. “Now we really try to keep kids within the regular classrooms as much as possible. We try to keep them integrated with their peers.”

Having K-12 under one roof and graduating only 63 students this year, Waterford/Halfmoon’s size certainly gives the district an advantage over its larger counterparts.

“We know if things change with a student. We know, gee, he or she used to be happy and upbeat and now it’s different and we can investigate why.”

“When there is a bad day we can really see it on their faces when they walk in in the morning or if things change throughout the day we can really see it,” Scanlan said.

The New York State School Boards Association recently held a summit titled: “Your Role in Addressing the Growing Mental Health Crisis Among Students” that aimed to identify the everyday challenges that teachers face.

“When a kid is really troubled and really suffering, for a whole bunch of reasons, they can’t learn,” Tim Kremer, Executive Director at NYSSBA, said.

Realizing districts are limited by their budgets, Kremer and the state’s board members are hoping to provide some realistic solutions to benefit students and their families.

“There are kids out there who need extra time, extra services, extra help beyond what a regular school curriculum might provide.”

One suggestion is partnering with outside community agencies to help cover the large gap in the student’s day when they’re not in school.

I do think partnerning with community mental health experts is a big avenue for us,” Scanlan said. “We only have the students for just over six hours a day, five days a week. There’s a huge part of their lives where they’re not here.”

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