#schoolsafety | Transitioning students back to school after mental health crises remains a challenge

Dive Brief:

  • Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition is an in-school program supporting students returning to school after extended mental health-related absences. The program provides a staffed classroom where students receive emotional and psychological support and homework assistance, according to The Hechinger Report.
  • Up to one in five children may have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, which can cause problems with focusing or information processing. The cycle includes dropping grades and missed school, which adds to more anxiety.
  • A study found 80% of students don’t receive the mental health care they need, and more than half of students age 14 or older with these disorders drop out of school.

Dive Insight:

The BRYT program, founded in the Boston area in 2004 by Brookline Center for Community Mental Health, has become an effective model for helping students transition back to school after a mental health crisis. The center helps school districts plan and implement these programs, which are staffed by school employees. It also helps districts find funding sources.

Students’ attendance rates rise after they join the program, and 90% stay on track to graduate on time. The program is currently in 137 schools in Massachusetts, and pilots are being launched in Rhode Island, New York and New Hampshire.

Lack of mental health support in schools becomes particularly evident after school shootings, where survivors often struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, survivor’s guilt and depression.

Last year, two students who survived the Parkland, Florida, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School committed suicide. The school made counselors available for students and staff immediately after the shooting, but the lingering effects of trauma continue to trouble survivors long after the event is over. Experts have suggested shifting the school safety discussion to being proactive with counseling, rather than being reactive with surveillance systems.

Budgets are also tight — and sometimes nonexistent — for counseling programs. Given more control over his budget, Principal Nelson Van Vranken of Fort Logan Northgate, a grades 3-8 school near Denver, was able to fund counseling at his school with state grants and a program offering college interns course credit for participating. The two social workers, district-level psychologist, behavior teacher and two interns involved helped to improve student behavior and destigmatize mental health at the school, additionally resulting in a 50% higher teacher retention rate since the 2015-16 school year.

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