Schools supports students with victims of mental illness
There is an elephant in the room when it comes to why many students struggle in school; it is a topic often avoided and swept under a rug. These students face a diverse portfolio of problems that prohibit academic and social progress and success. More often, however, schools provide necessary services to pair afflicted students with the resources they need.
Mental illnesses are the leading cause of dropouts, and schools have a vested interest in insuring graduation. In fact, more than one in five adolescents experience a mental illness that can cause struggles at home, school, or with peers. Of those, half drop out because of their illness and only 20 percent are properly diagnosed and receive proper treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
PRHS has many programs,that often go unadvertised but never unavailable, designed to assist students facing risks to their mental health.
“…[We] have a program that all schools have called the Student Steady Team; …if a teacher notices a student is…having issues…they fill out a form and get it to [the Student Steady Team]…and [they] have a meeting with the student… [and] any organizations or groups that are relevant to the meeting to see what we can do to help that student…”said Principal Randy Nelson. The school also offers a Severely Handicapped program as well as a Therapeutic Learning Class.
“We have a comprehensible high school probably in more sense of the term than most people realize…”
Assistant Principal Thomas Harrington uses peers as a more insightful approach to dealing with students.
“…Peers are a lot more insightful to the pressures of what’s going on in that teenager’s life…The counselors are the central point of communication and they are the ones who will reach out in the community and find the services, and connect the services with the…student…not necessarily a therapist…we deal with more critical, emergency [situations],” Harrington said.
[blockquote author=”Randy Nelson, Principal” pull=”normal”]
[If] you know they might be in need of some help…Let someone know so we can reach out to them.
It must be noted that schools are not legally bound or obligated to provide any mental health-based counseling or therapy related services to students.
However, change may come one day, as a bill demanding revision of the education code to include this was introduced to Congress in early 2013. Schools can provide these services if they are deemed necessary and relevant, and actions can be taken to protect students from themselves or external pressures.
“Section 504 of the American Disabilities Act is a federal law, that when a medical condition affects your academic performance…we can make modifications and accommodations to give them support,” Harrington said.
On campus, all faculty are aware of students’ behavior, and if something appears to be hindering a student’s academic progress, it is reported to the counselors.
“If there’s any kind of issue… [faculty] get that kind of information to the counselors, who then…connect that student with the resources they need,” Harrington said.
SLO County’s Mobile Crisis Response team also serves a large role in students’ mental health. Harrington says, “…the County Mental Health Team are professionals…counselors can call the team, and they’ll come out and assess the situation…they do a great job and we rely very heavily on them.”
“When we are made knowledgeable…of [a student] we don’t have the resources to address… that’s when we look outside to try and find other avenues for help for that individual…,” said Nelson. If a student is to go to a counselor with their problem, all information exchanged is kept confidential.
The school cannot help everyone alone, however; friends must take on their role.
“That’s the big thing…if you see one of your friends, or even if you don’t know them, and you know they might be in need of some help…by all means let someone know…so we can reach out to them, we want them to be safe and secure and successful,” Nelson said.