Let the conversation begin.
Schools Must Be Partners In The Mental Health Care Of Our Children - Morning Briefing to Betsy DeVos, Our New US Secretary of Education
Blog by Kerry Martin, CEO & Founder, Hope Xchange Nonprofit
Given how incredibly busy you are during your first week, I will be come right to the point and be both factual and brief. I will start with my key recommendation and then let the facts on the state of mental health in our schools today speak for themselves.
Please note I do not have a political agenda other than saving lives and improving mental health outcomes. I run a nonprofit dedicated to reducing suicide in our highest risk and most vulnerable populations: our youth, LGBQT and bipolar communities.
Our children and youth are not doing well — major understatement given suicide now second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 and leading cause of death in LGBQT youth — and your attention to this matter is so urgently needed given schools provide ideal and unique opportunities for both comprehensive mental health care intervention and suicide prevention planning.
Please Get Out Of Washington DC And Talk to Those Who Work On Front Lines
In case you don't get to my factual briefing below, please at least get out of Washington DC and sit down with those on the front lines — our teachers — and ask them, how our children are doing not only academically, but socially, emotionally and mentally.
If time permits, please also invite nonprofit executive directors who work with children and teens in mental health and suicide prevention fields and ask them the same questions as I'm sure they will have much of value to contribute to this important dialog. Please also inquire if there are ways we could be doing a better job of collaborating and joining forces to support both teachers and parents.
Please Understand Your Job Matters When It Comes To Mental Health Care Of Our Children
Per Page 58 in the 2003 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, schools are where children spend most of each day. While schools are primarily concerned with education, mental health is essential to learning as well as to social and emotional development. Because of this important interplay between emotional health and school success, schools must be partners in the mental health care of our children.
Please Understand Student Mental Health Matters And Our Kids Are In Serious Trouble
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and affects how we think, feel and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood, there is no question that students with good mental health are most successful in school.
Interventions that strengthen students’ social, emotional and decision-making skills positively affect their academic achievement whether measured by test scores or grades (Fleming, et al., 2005). Just as physical health impacts learning and performance, so does mental health. When students are stressed, anxious, distracted or depressed it is difficult to pay attention, concentrate, and focus on their school work.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that a student’s mental health is a key determinant in his/her success in school. So how are our kids doing in school? Just the fast facts from a WestEd 2014 report:
Further, to put youth suicide in a larger context for you, it is now the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 in this country (Trevor Project), and the leading cause of death for LGBQT youth, with this group making up 30% of all youth suicide (Suicide Prevention Resource Center).
And, not to overwhelm during your first week, but our nonprofit team has examined why our youth are not reaching out for help and have proposed an early intervention solution. If time permits, please read more about our two new programs under development for those at highest risk, our LGBQT youth, password-protected safe spaces offering online crisis intervention, live chat, messaging, social networking and mentoring online because that is where they are reaching out for help, assuming they are reaching out at all:
Please Look At Impact When Our Students Are Not Getting the Help So Desperately Needed
Just four fast mental health facts on children and teens are noted above. I could go on for hours about the early onset of mental illness, the gross disparity in care, the impact of the treatment lag, how much not intervening early is costing not only in human life but also lost tax revenue due to high school drop out rates and juvenile justice system expenditures etc, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. The facts speak volumes in my humble opinion.
Please Understand College Student Health Matters Too
I appreciate you are incredibly busy but nothing is more important to me than saving lives hence I would be remiss if I also didn’t bring to your attention the fact that suicide is the leading cause of death for college students. You can read more about this in our nonprofit’s post, When Suicide Leading Cause of Death Among College Students, What Message Does Spending Almost 50 Times More on Sports Programs Than Mental Health Send Students?
Please Accept Urgent Call To Action For Sake Of Our Future Generations
In closing, you are in a powerful position to affect real mental health care improvements for our children and youth. Elementary, secondary and high schools as well as colleges and universities are all ideal settings that provide unique opportunities for both comprehensive mental health care intervention and suicide prevention planning. For the sake of our future generations, please don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers.
With gratitude for your time,
Kerry Martin, CEO & Founder
Hope Xchange Nonprofit