Empower teachers with mental health first aid

A lack of mental health services in schools is being called a silent epidemic. In a given year, up to one in five children in the United States show symptoms of a mental disorder, which would equate to five students in a classroom of 25. Nearly 80 percent of children who are suffering from mental health issues are not receiving services.

One reason youth may not be receiving services is due to not being identified. There is a shortage of mental health professionals in schools contributing to students slipping through the cracks. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends one school counselor per 250 students. Michigan has nearly triple the recommendation, at one school counselor per 729 students. Without mental health professionals to identify their needs, students will continue to slip through the cracks.

A solution to this problem is to empower teachers by providing them with Mental Health First Aid training. Teachers are the ones who are most exposed to youth in an environment that allows for identification of symptoms of a mental health issue. However, most teachers do not have the knowledge or skills to do so.

Passage of House Bill 5524 would provide a program to teachers that would educate them on the skills to identify mental health warning signs and strategies to help students that are identified. House Bill 5524 was passed by the state House of Representatives and is currently in the Senate Committee on Health Policy. Please contact Mike Shirkey, Committee Chair, at P.O. Box 30036, Lansing, Mich., 48909-7536, 517-373-5932, or mikeshirkey@senate.mi.gov to urge him to add House Bill 5524 to the next scheduled meeting agenda and vote yes.

RHIANNA COMPTON,

Alpena