Why HMHS Needs Increased Mental Health Resources

Mary Clare Michael, Staff Writer

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The first Monday in October marked the beginning of School Violence Awareness Week in the state of New Jersey. As sad as it is that we need to have this week, it is necessary as violence in schools has greatly increased.

Today, there are about six times the number of shootings that there were only five years ago. Many try to pinpoint a single cause of this heightened violence, such as movies or video games, but the primary culprit is a lot more ambiguous– mental health. According to the National Comorbidity Survey for Adolescents, 49.5% of US teens meet the criteria for a mental health disorder, but only 11% of those are treated. This most likely comes from societal stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Personally, I believe that poor mental health is overlooked as a potential cause of school violence in Haddonfield.

This year, the school brought on Police Officer Melissa Young to help maintain physical security at HMHS. While any initiative to increase security is a step in the right direction, the school still lacks resources for those with mental health disorders. Most students don’t realize that they are able to talk about mental health with their guidance counselor, and the licensed therapist for the district mainly works with students with counseling mandates as part of a 504 plan or Individualized Educational Program (IEP).

A study done at Princeton University showed that 48% of mass shootings were caused by a lack of treatment for mental health, while only 29% were caused by a lack of physical security. I’m not saying that there is no need for Officer Young. Our school is taking initiative on safety, which is very important. However, we have the ability to make our schools safer with better access to mental health resources.

I understand that developing a beneficial mental health program for the school would be a financial and administrative burden, but the results could completely change morale. Instead of meeting strictly for scheduling, guidance counselors at our school could meet students to address mental health. Just a simple mental health screening test administered to students annually could help save someone’s life. While some argue that these tests cost money, the total cost would only be 0.8% of the proposed guidance budget, and a fraction of what we paid for the new turf field. Plus, the high school has five counselors, so the work would be spread evenly among them.

Honestly, this change is long overdue. Physical security can only take our school so far because real change comes from altering our actions views on mental health.

 

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. 

 

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