Several years ago, I was a school counselor overseeing 200 tenth graders. As the year progressed, I noticed I was spending a considerable amount of time meeting with students struggling with mental health issues. Students shared with me their personal struggles with anxiety, depression and, at times, suicidal thoughts. I felt prepared to work with these students but I was not well-connected with the resources of my local community.
Since then, mental health issues have become even more prevalent. To address this concern, our school counseling team has enhanced relationships with community agencies and continues to explore and create programs in our school that address the growing needs of our students. During the past two years as a supervisor, I worked closely with my team to track data to highlight the increase in mental health concerns. We have used this data to create new programs and share information with teachers so they can incorporate lessons into their curricula. School counselors also frequently visit classrooms to discuss these pertinent topics.
This summer, I attended the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national conference in Denver, Colo. I collaborated with colleagues across the nation and learned that other school counselors also have identified an increase in mental health concerns. Schools perform many important functions for students and families, including being a safe haven for families during times of need. School counselors have the ability to connect families with a variety of agencies that work with children and adolescents to address any mental health issues they are facing. Schools also can help educate students on skills and techniques and offer contact information to families for outside referrals and valuable resources. Schools should work diligently to partner with families to develop the whole child.
As a school counselor, I urge you to continue building relationships with your community agencies and to remember that it is important to continue to educate yourself on trends and available resources. We school counselors can encourage parents to take a more pronounced role in their child’s personal growth and development. This, in turn, will help strengthen their family and make parents aware of their child’s feelings and needs. Life is not always easy for students and parents and children need outside support at times. School counselors have the privilege of guiding students and families and showing them all that is available to them in their community.
School counselors, thank you for being such an integral part of these trying times for children and their families. They are lucky to have you.