Are School Counselors Outnumbered?

Posted by One in Five Minds on Nov 6, 2015 2:58:41 PM

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When people bring up the subject of public schools, the most often discussed topics revolve around academic standardization, teacher accountability and high stakes testing. But one lesser-examined theme is the state of our public school counselors. More pointedly, are we allowing our public school counselors enough time and resources to do everything that the Texas Education Code calls them to do? For those that aren’t familiar, The Texas Education Code states that:  A school counselor’s role is to “fully develop students academic, career, personal and social abilities to serve all students.” That’s a hefty job description, even if you’re talking about a self-declared superhero with only a couple of students under their charge. But as those of us who send our children to public schools know, it’s never just a couple of students.

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Helping children with mental illness in the school system

Posted by One in Five Minds on Aug 10, 2015 2:05:00 PM

A group of high school students in Maryland is urging its local Board of Education to include mental health education in a required health education course, to include topics such as depression and suicide.

In Minnesota, young organizers are bringing together walkers, runners and skateboarders to promote more awareness around youth struggling with mental health issues.

And, right here in San Antonio, Clarity Child Guidance Center is offering a series of Community Conversations on Children’s Mental Health, which is bringing parents and schools together to address the issue.

Across the country, communities are responding to a mental health crises among our youth. We live in a time when one in five children in the United States have a mental illness, though many go undiagnosed. One in two lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. And suicide is the second leading cause of death in children.

These statistics tell a sobering story.

That is why now, with the start of a new school year, it’s important to talk openly about what support is in place for children who may be experiencing mental illness during the school year.

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College prep for teens struggling with mental health issues

Posted by One in Five Minds on Apr 22, 2015 12:07:00 PM

Ben had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety in high school. As it came time for him to leave for college, he became anxious about leaving home and his safety net. He looked forward to starting with a clean slate – going to a place where no one knew about his struggles with his mental health – but he also worried about handling his symptoms on his own.

For college-bound students like Ben, it is time for students and their parents to think about how to handle mental illnesses without the family nearby.

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Topics: School Issues

Learning about back to school and mental health

Posted by One in Five Minds on Jul 25, 2014 4:15:00 PM

If you ask a child what they think of when it comes to summer, you’ll probably get responses like, “vacation,” “sleeping in,” “ice cream,” “being with friends,” “swimming pools,” and especially, “no school!” For a child contending with a mental illness, “no school” may also mean a brief reprieve from anxiety, stress, and other challenges that school brings.

Children may already be exhibiting symptoms of mental illness before entering school, but the stress, anxiety, and relational challenges schools create may contribute to or intensify those symptoms. As summer is ending, and a new school year draws near, there are a couple of things the family of a child with a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder can take to prepare for the coming school year.

In her Psychology Today article, Tamar Chansky, PhD, discusses how parents can address anxiety in children. Anxiety is a common experience among most children and doesn’t indicate a mental illness, so her suggestions are applicable to all kids. Dr. Chansky says that  “…worry is fueled by an active imagination, so to “keep it real” help your child get some data: visit the school, play in the playground, peek into the classroom or even help to decorate the bulletin boards with the teacher if you have a chance. Do some “dress rehearsals” of the new morning routine at home, so your child sees how it will work. Practice goodbye routines; for fun and a little added flexibility, switch off roles. Give your child the chance to be the parent, not only will they feel more confident seeing what it’s like to be in charge, but you may learn some good lines from your child for how to say a clean-break goodbye.”

For a child struggling with depression, the transition back to school may have additional challenges. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that “Only now, in the past two decades has depression in children been taken very seriously. The depressed child may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that the parent may die. Older children may sulk, get into trouble at school, be negative, grouchy, and feel misunderstood.” The NIMH offers a series of resources here to help parents learn more about how to care for a child with depression.

A visit to the pediatrician for a pre-school physical should also include a mental health check. Many pediatricians utilize a mental health checklist from the American Medical Association to identify possible mental illnesses. In addition, many school districts have programs and support groups for families of children with mental illness. Check with the administrative office in your child’s school. There may also be a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  organization in your area that can provide assistance.

Do your homework and help provide your child with a (mentally) healthy start to the upcoming school year.

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Topics: School Issues

Back to school with friends, and frenemies?

Posted by One in Five Minds on Aug 29, 2013 2:39:00 PM

Across the country, millions of kids are heading back to school. Gone are the lazy days of summer, replaced by the march back to classes, teachers, homework, band, athletics, friends and…frenemies? Unfortunately, yes.

Never heard of a frenemy? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines a frenemy as “one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.”It sounds like another “sign of the times” word to describe our changing world, but in fact, the word can be found in print as far back as 1953. Whether or not you’ve heard of it though, if you or your child has experienced a frenemy, you understand the painful (and emotional) situation it can create.

The path for kids to form friendships is a growing process. As each person begins to build trust in the other, an openness and kindness grow, and through that process, so does the friendship. Now consider the amount of time and emotion spent building a friendship, only to have the “friend” you’ve become close with, turn on you. What it creates is the potential for a very painful situation.

The affect of frenemies on mental health is not good – regardless of your age. But for a child contending with a frenemy, the impact can be even more severe, including anxiety and low self esteem, which can in turn begin to affect family relationships.

Do you know or have a child with a frenemy? This resource from Australia provides helpful information for dealing with frenemies and toxic relationships. Click through to this article for more information. You can also watch this video from a frenemy presentation. The more you know about what your child is experiencing, the better prepared you can be to guide them through it, and cushion the affect on their mental health.

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