Mental Health in Schools

Many children face daily struggles with mental health, and schools are often on the front lines in helping them deal with it. Side Effects examines what responsibility schools have in this fight, and what counselors, teachers and administrators are doing to address this quiet crisis.  

Have a story idea? Email health@wfyi.org

Photo by Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media.

In rural areas, access to mental health services can be limited, sometimes even more so for teens and children. And the need for these services is growing, so one Midwestern school is using technology to help bridge this gap.

Natalie Krebs/Side Effects Public Media

Schools are often on the forefront in spotting mental health issues in children. But historically educators have received little training in this area. In Iowa, legislators have set aside $2 million to expand mental health training in schools. But when nearly a quarter of kids are estimated to have a psychiatric disorder, some people want the state to do more.


How Active Shooter Drills Can Harm A Child's Health

Aug 29, 2019
Photo Credit: "Aid To Injury" by MAMC Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dianne Gordon knew something was wrong as soon as her daughter stepped off the school bus one April afternoon. Seven-year-old Rory was inconsolable. 

"It was heart-breaking," says Gordon, who lives in Champaign, Ill. "She was screaming and yelling. She loves school, and she kept yelling, ‘I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go back.'”

This week Indiana Public Broadcasting's All IN hosted a discussion on mental health in schools. The show was in parternship with Side Effects Public Media.

Side Effects' Carter Barrett discussed her reporting on Indiana's push to bring mental health services into schools -- a fight sparked by two school shooting attempts. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / Side Effects Public Media

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Bouncing on a purple exercise ball, Alyssa talks to her new teacher about what classes she needs to graduate.  "There’s a Psychology 1 as an elective, I would take that, but I already took psychology and sociology... And I feel like Heartland in general is a psychology class," she says, laughing.

After two school shootings last year, lawmakers named mental health services in schools a top priority. Many schools across the state say they need more: more counselors, therapists, funding and support.