The mental health crisis: what resources are available to students?

Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 8:18 PM EDT
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - The Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on kids’ mental health. Schools in Aroostook County are aware of the mental health crisis and are offering support resources for students in need.

Adolescent mental health continues to worsen, according to the CDC. In 2021, 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless and almost 1/3 experienced poor mental health. This mental health decline is taking lives, with 1 in 10 adolescents attempting suicide.

Allison Reed, the Director of Guidance for MSAD 1, and Sarah Williams, an Elementary School Counselor at Southern Aroostook, explain what support is available through school counselors.

“Our biggest goal here is to ensure that students are available for learning,” says Reed. “Obviously, this is an educational institution, so that’s the most important thing is to make sure our students in the classroom and they’re ready to receive those academics. So the mental health support that we do is a lot of brief therapy to get them back in the classroom and get them available for learning.”

Williams explained the role of the school counselor, specifying what support they offer. “We are kind of seen as short-term counseling situations,” she explains, “so if a student comes to school and they have an immediate issue, or divorce, anxiety, anger, any social emotional-type issues is what Mrs. Green and I focus on.”

Both Williams and Reed explain there are additional resources available for students who need long-term help. “Each of the students are specifically assigned to a councilor, so we form relationships with each student,” Reed says.

Williams explained that Southern Aroostook also reaches out to other community resources. “We also have an AMHC counselor that comes in and he’s a crisis prevention counselor,” Williams explains. “He’s really just preventive, so if a student is in crisis we would reach out to AMHC at that time with parent permission to have a crisis counselor come to our school.”

Reed acknowledged that long waitlists might be harmful for students who need regular, long-term care. “One of the issues is the very long waitlist,” Reed states, “so what we attempt to do is make sure students are having the resources here at school until they can receive some of those therapies outside of school.”

Beyond what is offered within schools, Williams says there are things parents can do in the home to support students who are struggling. “Definitely for parents I recommend that you just be a listening ear and you validate feelings, and you just listen and be a support,” Williams advises. “Sometimes kids just need to be heard. And then definitely reach out to the school if you need further follow-up.”

Concerned parents or students are advised to their guidance counselor to find out what resources are available.