Mental Health in Schools

School districts are constantly looking for ways to reduce their overall spending. Unfortunately, one of the ways they are accomplishing this goal is by reducing, or not expanding, their psychological staff. This is possibly the worst time for these types of budgetary cutbacks to happen, because the need for these services in the schools is greater than ever. Student suicides are on the rise, bullying continues to increase in new and traditional ways, and stress management continues to be a problem for students. These concerns are increasing during a period where there are national shortages in school psychologists that are only expected to increase over the next decade.

What Can School Psychologists Do?
Most of the media attention being given to this issue reflects the needs of the children, principals, and school districts. The answer for them is an increase in the number of psychologists that are serving the student population. This is simply a matter of funding and budgeting resources to fulfill the need. The real question is what are the school psychologists who are currently overextended supposed to do?

There are a few things that an over-taxed school psychologist can do. First, learn about the free resources available in your state or town. Many states have free resources to provide health care for children whose parents don’t have the resources to provide adequate medical and mental health care for them. School districts can partner with these resources and refer students for additional therapy options that would be paid by the state rather than by the individual school district. This option is obviously more appropriate for nonacademic problems, such as depression or eating disorders.

School Districts
While school districts may not have the ability to internally afford the expenses associated with expanding their psychological resources, they may be able to afford a grant writer. A grant writer should be able to easily provide resources that will more than pay for the initial cost of their position. There are national, state, and local grants for education available for almost every school. Learning to take advantages of these resources certainly has a learning curve associated with it. For schools that are truly struggling with funding, they can provide the resources necessary to fully meet the educational and psychological needs of their students.

As a school psychologist, what has been the effect of reduced resources for your department on yourself and the students you serve? How have you tried to compensate for these reductions, and how do you plan to alleviate the pressure in the future?

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