“While I applaud Governor Hochul’s initial steps to ease the shortage of services at the school, I hope she and federal officials consider addressing the shortage of therapists… Without these steps, waiting lists will remain long.”
depressing New study It seems to confirm an uncomfortable suspicion many mental health experts have, which is that there is a clear link between going to school in person and suicide rates.
There has always been a decrease in youth suicide in the summer and during the Eid holidays, which was the source of our suspicions. But the initial pandemic lockdowns in 2020, when children weren’t going to school in person, showed a Dramatic decline in suicides, despite the loneliness and stress caused by online learning. And if that wasn’t confirmation enough that schooling increases the likelihood of young people committing suicide, the study provided additional evidence – as lockdowns eased and children returned, suicides returned too.
Of course, no one is suggesting that the cure for youth suicide is to give up going to school in person. The social, academic and emotional benefits of learning together and being together are huge and obvious. But we as a society would be fools if we didn’t do something about this connection.
One of the obvious reasons why this happens may be the well-known relationship between bullying and suicide. Cyberbullying is also harmful, but it clearly does not lead children to end their lives at the same rate as in-person bullying.
But another possible cause, mentioned in the last sentence of the study, is the lack of access to mental health care, especially for children. This is a problem inside and outside schools. Fortunately in New York State, Gov. Kathy Hochul and other leaders are starting to take notice and offer solutions, at least in the classroom.
The governor has proposed increasing funding for school mental health services, and increasing reimbursement rates for school clinics. Meanwhile, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has urged the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to ensure that all city schools offer the mental health programs it says are available. a last revision He said none of these programs exist in more than a third of the city’s schools.
This is a start. Another step that all schools can take is to increase the presence of counsellors, family therapists, psychologists and social workers in schools. exist right Now 408 students per advisor nationally, compared to 424 before the pandemic. This is a slight improvement, but it’s still far from the perfect 250-to-1 ratio.
However, the biggest problem may be getting away from school. Therapists are generally in short supply, and the pool shrinks when trying to find someone who takes insurance, and contracts even more when the goal is to find someone who treats children at all. There are several reasons for this:
- Treatment for children is different from treatment for adults. It requires more creativity, more preparation, and more space to accommodate a desk with art supplies, books, and games used to engage children. This also requires a larger financial investment from the therapist.
- Pediatric therapists should also talk with parents, school personnel, and others as part of treatment. Insurance companies don’t pay them for it.
- When school is in session, it is difficult to schedule the children, who are only available in the late afternoons, evenings and weekends.
- do not pay. Most pediatric therapists are licensed clinical social workers, earning an average salary of just over $50,000 annually, despite their graduate degrees, postgraduate training, and other investments. Furthermore, many health insurance plans reimburse mental health professionals at a lower rate than doctors.
So while I applaud Governor Hochul’s initial steps to ease the shortage of services at the school, I hope she and federal officials consider addressing the shortage of therapists. Steps that might help include increasing funding for mental health agencies so they can pay therapists a living wage, and requiring insurance companies to adequately compensate and pay therapists for the significant work they do when the client is not in the office. Without these steps, queues will remain long.
We often hear that there is a crisis in children’s mental health, and it is true. It’s time to start responding as if it were a crisis.
Martha Fling is President and CEO, Inc Ackermann Family Institute, which offers family therapy and therapist training. Previously, she founded SeaBridge, a residential treatment center for teens with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
If you or someone you know is going through a crisis, please contact them immediately Lifeline by calling or texting 988 For free and confidential support.
New York City is also running New York City Hotline OK To connect New Yorkers with confidential crisis counseling, mental health and substance abuse support, information and referrals. Reach our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone, text, and online chat: 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355); 1-888-692-9355 (Spanish); 1-888-692-9355 (繁體中文); 711 (TTY for the hearing impaired).