ARKANSAS, USA — We are less than two weeks away from the start of a new school year in Arkansas, and students’ mental health is top of mind.
Mental health issues affect both student wellness and overall school safety, and it was a key part of school safety recommendations turned over to the governor earlier this week.
In its preliminary report, the state's School Safety Commission recommends expanding youth mental health training to all people interacting with students, not just school counselors. Members also stress the importance of giving all students equal access to mental health care, whether that’s in person or through Telehealth.
“Presently, access to mental health services for our students is inconsistent across our schools in Arkansas. The school is often the only resource for Telehealth, for mental health services that can be provided to a student,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said.
According to the CDC, more than 40% of teenagers state that they struggle with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. And as kids return to school, Dr. Kevin Stephens says it’s important for teachers and parents to look out for kids who are struggling.
“If their grades have fallen for some unexpected reason, that’s a really good tip-off that something may be going on, if the child is withdrawn, if the child is having fights and disputes with other kids, and they seem to be ostracized and isolated,” said Kevin Stephens Sr., the chief medical officer for the Midsouth Region United Healthcare.
Stephens emphasizes the importance of parents or caretakers being transparent with kids about mental health.
“Once you expose your vulnerabilities, that opens a door to let your child expose their vulnerability,” Stephens said. He suggests that getting professional help is always an option.
“Don’t be isolated, and talk, look, listen, and reach out a hand to others, and I find when we all do that, this will be a much better place for us and our children,” Stephens said.
In another attempt to increase mental health assistance, the Biden Administration awarded funding to expand mental healthcare services in schools just this past week.
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