UW to train teachers on appropriate mental health services as demand grows

With health officials reporting a severe mental health crisis facing schools across the country since before the pandemic, a new program from the University of Washington (UW) Bothell aims to better prepare educators to help their struggling students.

“We are very fortunate to live in Washington state, but we still have many homeless students,” said Dr. Robin Fleming, assistant professor at UW Bothell. “We have students who have PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and we can help them.”

The risks of using mental health influencers as therapy

Fleming, co-director of the Behavioral Health Initiative at the UW Bothell School of Nursing and Health Sciences, is one of the faculty members organizing the university’s effort to get more mental health education in schools. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and an M.A. in Community Health Nursing from UW Seattle.

The program was launched after figures provided by the university showed that feelings of anxiety and hopelessness among young people had risen sharply. The program will help meet the university’s goal of training high school teachers, a position expected to serve as more than just a teacher to a tested generation, according to Fleming.

“We’ve also had this massive opioid epidemic, we’ve had students who have been orphaned because their parents have passed away, we’ve also had some younger people dying, and just gun violence,” Fleming said. “I really mean everything and the chaos in the world for the last two years.”

Fleming was a school nurse years before the pandemic. She said they were already exhausted before COVID-19, and now they are overwhelmed.

“School nurses for many students are the only health care they receive, which is wrong,” Fleming said. “But it’s a fact, so we need more school nurses. We need more funding for school nurses. We need more funding for mental health counsellors.

Across the hall in the consulting rooms, staff agreed.

“It’s really hard to find providers in the community who aren’t already full of their cases,” said Cricket Sutton, a school psychologist at Meadowdale High School, who believes more students are dealing with anxiety now and are struggling to find help. off campus.

Puget Sound area educators sound the alarm, sometimes in unison, chanting along a column. Striking union members in Seattle and Kent demanded more counselors in schools and less staffing — often hundreds of students per counselor.

SPS teachers union authorizes strike vote as it ‘actively bargains’ with district

State leaders have repeatedly emphasized their intent to equip schools with more supports to better address students’ mental health needs. Gov. Jay Inslee said it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

“We need to help kids with mental health issues, we need to help kids who have chemical dependency issues learn,” Inslee said at a news conference. “Those problems have to be solved or addressed, or you can’t help a child learn algebra.”

So what is being done about it?

Beyond the university’s program, Meadowdale High School (MHS) recently joined a growing list of Washington education centers to open its own on-site health clinic.

Inslee visited the site on October 24 and touted its easy access for students.

“We know there’s a mental health crisis in our kids, and having it at your school where you don’t have to get on a bus and cross town to see a mental health professional is extremely effective,” Inslee said.

The clinic at MHS is operated in part with the help of local health professionals, but was supported by funds passed by the state legislature. The clinic plans to provide mental health services along with physical, behavioral and even dental care.

Once the UW Bothell initiative delivers its training modules to schools, Fleming said it’s up to the districts how to roll them out. But regardless, she said more funding for programs like Meadowdale’s and her own are desperately needed across the state.

“If we understand the value these nurses and mental health counselors bring to our schools, we will find the money,” Fleming said. “I’ve heard so many times we can afford it, yes we can.”

And if the authorities in Washington do not release the funding?

“Look where we are,” said Fleming. “We’re not getting better, we’re getting worse.”

Follow Sam Campbell Twitter or email him here

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *