From Bones to Brains: Why Mental Health Should Be Equally Prioritized For Our Kids by 30Seconds Mom


From Bones to Brains: Why Mental Health Should Be Equally Prioritized For Our Kids

Every day, people are becoming increasingly more aware of the importance of mental health issues in educational environments. A great example is the global pandemic, COVID-19. Its impact on schools and learning made the world see how mental health can affect students, their learning, communication skills and development.

There is a strong case to be made that prioritizing and cultivating a child’s mental health is just as important as their physical development, as well as learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, it is estimated that approximately 16.5 percent of children younger than 18 years have at least one mental health disorder in the United States.

From the same report, it’s estimated that around 49.4 percent of those children did not receive the treatment or counseling they needed from a professional. This data shows that mental health isn’t the priority it should be, and more mental health professionals are needed in education. These school-based psychology or counseling roles would require a qualification like the online Master’s of School Counseling, as well as additional certification and licenses to ensure a positive environment to foster children’s mental health.

School Counselors and Statistics 

A school counselor is a certified/licensed professional that provides social-emotional support and academic guidance to all students. They typically study either counseling or school psychology, helping students from elementary school to high school.

Counselors and other mental health professionals are an integral part of the overall education system. Without the aid of a counselor, students may not be able to effectively grow and cultivate their mental health, which could lead to poor academic results, negatively impacting self-development and relationships with peers.

The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250 to 1 ratio of students to school counselors, but data has shown the national average is instead at 408 to 1 during the 2021 to 2022 school year. The statistics show that the mental health side of education is understaffed, and not receiving as much support as physical development. Other reports also indicate that when school budgets get tight, the first role cut is typically counselors.

When looking at equally prioritizing mental health for kids, it’s important to look at elementary school counselors. They are uniquely trained educators, focused on child development – helping young kids with their social skills, self-management and learning strategies.

Elementary school counselors are just as essential as any other educational level. The elementary years are especially crucial because it is when students begin to develop their academic self-confidence, form their studying and learning habits, socializing, communication skills and perception of self.

The Lack of Mental Health Resources

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, student mental health was an alarming issue, that has only been growing. The pandemic and its isolation highlighted the lack of mental health resources and the ongoing crisis that has been affecting the youth of the country. Back in 2021, three pediatric organizations declared a "national emergency" in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the pandemic on top of other existing challenges.

We are still seeing the impact of the pandemic now, not just from the isolation procedures, but also how COVID-related deaths can impact young minds. Statistics have shown that more than 140,000 U.S. children experienced the death of a primary or secondary caregiver during the pandemic. Since 2020, there has been a sharp increase in emergency department visits across the country for children ages 5 to 17. In addition to this, suspected suicide attempts grew to nearly 51 percent among girls aged 12 to 17 years old in 2021 compared to the same period in 2019.

Surveys from EAB (Education Technology, Services, and Research), an education and research consulting firm, show that both, teachers and superintendents believe student mental health is now more urgent than ever but lacks resources. Until the government and educational institutions start recognizing mental health growth is as important as physical growth, especially in the early years, this issue won’t change. More funding needs to be allocated for setting up and teaching the importance of mental health to students and teachers.

The Importance of Mental Health

So, why exactly is mental health essential for the growth of young children and their development in school settings? Research has shown that high levels of mental health and emotional intelligence are associated with increased creativity, productivity and learning.

Mental health awareness and development isn’t only for the students but also for the educators. Education professionals should all be trained and aware to recognize any potential mental health issues among students so they can create a safe and supportive environment.

Without a safe and supportive environment where positive mental health is fostered and cultivated, educational and physical growth may not be able to grow, either.

Areas Schools Can Improve

  • Statistics from 2021 to 2022 show that only over half of U.S. public schools offer mental health assessments for students, with fewer offering treatment options. Schools and administration could expand mental health services and allocate funding to improve K-12 schools.
  • Offering mental health assessments is only half the issue. Schools across the nation need to invest in better programs to educate students on the importance of mental health, how it can impact study, and provide resources for treatment (if it isn’t already offered inside the school).
  • School psychologists and counselors are often underfunded and understaffed. Statistics from ASCA show the national average of students is almost double the amount per counselor can realistically support. More incentives or funding should be available to hire an adequate amount of staff for the recommended 250 to 1 ratio of students to counselors.
  • Implement more mental health awareness programs and hire counselors for elementary schools. Most school counselors and school psychologists work with teenaged students and settings. Mental health should be a priority from early schooling years and is critical for the social and emotional growth of a child. Right now, in the U.S., therapy and counseling for elementary school-aged children are mostly outside of school.

Organizations across the United States have been urging policymakers to take action concerning the awareness of mental health and the current crisis. For years, they’ve been calling for action to increase funding, improve access to telemedicine, and support effective models of proven and school-based mental health care systems. Before it is too late, the government and schools need to recognize the importance of mental health and prioritize it equally with learning and physical growth.

Note: The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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Elisa Schmitz
It is sad but true how much our kids' mental health is suffering. The pandemic really made matters worse, but the problem has been growing for quite sometime. By raising awareness, hopefully we can begin to reverse this trend, thank you.
Donna John
I cannot stress enough the importance of mental health care for kids (and adults!). Mental health resources in schools is crucial, because many kids do not have the support at home.

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