Why are Mental Health Services in Howard County Schools Important?

ESH Blog
Why are Mental Health Services in Howard County Schools Important?
Five kids smiling huddling in a circle
Five kids smiling huddling in a circle

Where do you spend most of your time? For students, most time is spent at school. And as students and youth across the nation are increasingly struggling with mental health challenges, not to mention the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better place than schools to provide mental health services.

What is a school-based mental health program?

A school-based mental health program can look different depending on the school, local district, and government priorities. Some schools hire different kinds of mental health professionals or guidance counselors, and others may partner with a local organization that focuses on supporting youth mental health. Funding for these programs also looks different depending on the school. Some receive support from local or state funds, some receive support from federal grants, and some are funded through other sources like philanthropy.

Locally, the Howard County Council approved nearly $2 million to expand enhanced school-based mental health support to every Howard County Public School over the next two years. The program is funded by County funds, as well as support from Kahlert Foundation and the Horizon Foundation.  This funding will provide 19 social worker positions that will focus on behavioral health and student well-being.

Why is Mental Health Support in Schools Important?

Providing mental health services in schools can:

Increase direct and convenient access

Horizon Foundation’s President and CEO, Nikki Vernick, said it best, “When mental health services are offered in school, parents don’t need to miss work to get their child to treatment, and students don’t have to miss extra classroom time waiting for and traveling to and from appointments.”

Juggling appointments for oneself can be tricky enough, but juggling appointments for a family can be an even larger burden. Placing mental health services, like therapy, where people already are saves time on traveling. This is one reason the United States has seen an increase in people accessing telehealth and virtual medicine services.

In addition to convenience, consider the atmosphere. Schools are a familiar and natural environment for students. In contrast, some health care settings may feel more unfamiliar and awkward to children and youth. Having a comfortable and safe space, like school, is important to accessing care. Being more familiar with their environment increases a student’s comfortability and may even increase their likelihood to seek out mental health care on their own.

Improve student and teacher well-being  

From difficult schoolwork loads to stressors at home, students carry a lot of stress and trauma that can impact them mentally and physically. It’s important that they have a space to go and offload that stress. When they can safely release the weight of stress and trauma, they can better focus on their academic success and learn how to regulate difficult emotions.

Destigmatize mental health

Mental health services in schools can help bridge the conversation about mental health. Having a presence in schools makes mental health a more common topic, which can encourage students to feel comfortable discussing mental health with their peers.

Horizon Foundation is Making a Difference

Horizon Foundation is Howard County’s community health foundation, committed to improving health through innovative initiatives, collaborative grantmaking, and thoughtful advocacy. Initiatives to end the stigma around mental health and support youth health include:

1. Mental Health Matters Coalition

“A program jointly funded by the school system and Horizon Foundation has significantly expanded mental health services in 60% of Howard County schools, which provides personalized access to mental health services, including one-on-one counseling, during the school day. And thanks to your incredible advocacy, this program is expanding to ALL Howard County public schools over the next two years!”

2. Emotional Support Human

Emotional Support Human is a public outreach campaign designed to help people effectively support those in their lives who may be struggling with mental health challenges.

3. Mental Health Film Festival

The Horizon Foundation’s Mental Health Film Festival is an annual event to build awareness and compassion for members of our community facing mental health challenges.

At Horizon Foundation, we’re dedicated to building a healthier Howard County, and we couldn’t do it without you!

Be a Part of the Difference

Howard County students deserve to feel safe and supported in their schools in every way, and the Horizon Foundation is committed to that vision. If you think that every school and every kid in Howard County should have the same access to mental health resources, sign our petition to demand better mental health services.

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