The disturbing and tragic news a few days ago in Barcelona, Spain unfortunately serves as a reminder of the necessity of mental health practitioners in our schools. (“Crossbow attack kills teacher, wounds four others at Barcelona school” The Globe and Mail, April 20, 2015) Indeed, as I learned at the Mental Health Symposium sponsored by the British Columbia Principals and Vice-Principals Association in October of 2014, “Mental Health is the #1 issue facing children today as stress, anxiety and depression have become increasingly prevalent in the lives of children today.” As an educator for the last 20 years with 5 years as a school counsellor and 7 as an administrator, I can attest to this alarming trend first-hand. More and more children, it seems, are having difficulty functioning in schools and ultimately in a broader social context. Studies have shown that fully 50% of mental health issues begin by age 15 and that, if treated appropriately and early enough, 70% of these issues may be mitigated to the point where they will not have a lasting impact during adulthood. For me, this engenders a very clear responsibility on both federal and provincial governments to create structures in our schools that deal specifically with adolescent mental health. Indeed, I believe that schools are the best places to deal with this issue as professionals within the schools enjoy a unique advantage in their ability to see children on a daily basis and develop the essential baseline behavioural data. Furthermore, as respected professionals who deal with children on a regular basis, we have the opportunity to be effective and to help children and families get the care they need so as to offset the detrimental impact of mental illness and possibly avoid the all-too-frequent tragedies that seem to plague our schools. Having both a counselling background and the skillset of a certified counsellor as a school-based administrator has been extremely beneficial to me in helping students and their families who are struggling with mental illness. We will need more professionals with this background and skillset working with in our schools if we are to adequately address the needs of our students.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA