Importance of Mental Health Services in Schools

Sharon Hoover Stephan (bio) makes a compelling argument for providing mental health services in schools.


Schools have become the de facto mental health system for kids. We know that you've got about one in five kids who have a mental health problem are actually seen by anybody, but of those kids who are seen, it's about 70 to 80 percent actually get seen in schools. So, it's a pretty compelling argument to actually bring the health services to schools.

All the epidemiological studies are showing us that a huge number of our kids will experience trauma. Despite some of these universal efforts that we can put into place, prevention efforts, we're still going to have children who are chronically exposed to trauma or who experience more single incident type events. And since we know that so few kids actually get to mental health services in the traditional mental health sector, it's really critical that we put those services in schools.

Very scary things are happening to our kids in a school setting so whether it's someone being shot in the school, if it's just bullying in the school, there's a lot more attention to that. Once schools recognize that these things happen in the school building, they're a little bit more open to the idea that we might need to address it in the school building. But, I would still argue whether it's, even if a school doesn't seem to have any specific incident in their school, their students are coming with a whole lot of baggage related to emotional abuse, family violence, community violence, drug use, et cetera. And to expect them to drop those things at the school door and come in and learn is really not a realistic perspective.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2012 in Santa Monica, CA.