Mental illness in schools

By Kirsten Magas
Staff Writer

Throughout the school year, plenty of students have been absent due to flu symptoms, strep throat, and other physical illnesses. However, not many students find it acceptable to stay home because of stress or other triggers associated with mental illness.

According to a study the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 children between the ages 13-18 has or will have a serious mental illness. Not enough attention has been given to this alarming statistic and the real question is: How can it be managed?

Mental illnesses may be invisible, but they are, in fact, very real: a PET Scan shows that there is significantly less brain activity in the hippocampus, which is associated with acquiring new memories and recalling old ones, and therefore crucial to the learning process that includes tons of memorizing vocabulary words and math equations.

Tests can send students with panic disorder into attacks and group activities can be nearly impossible for students with social anxiety. It is not the obligation of Neshaminy to form the curriculum around these students, however, communication between these students and their teachers and guidance counselors is key. Teachers learn just as much as their students learn from them and try their best to accommodate for the needs of the student and help the students understand any missed work for mental health days and guidance counselors are very helpful in having someone to talk to when life just piles up.

In many cases, mental illnesses are diagnosed very late to the point where the patient is self-harming or suicidal. In many cases, mental illnesses go undiagnosed. If mental health screenings became a requirement in schools just like checking vision and hearing, help could be offered at the earlier stages.

“I think it would be a really good idea. I don’t know about our money situation all too well, but if it helps the learning process for the students I think the school should look into it” said Neshaminy senior, Erika Walter. Imagine all of the kids with ADD that don’t have to have an “F” etched into their report card before attention is brought to their disorder.

Boston Public Schools have implemented mental health screenings and have had major success directing students in need to support groups. Neshaminy should do just that.