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There's a mental health crisis affecting millions of kids in America's schools

Sep 8, 2016

As many as one in five kids in the U.S. shows signs of a mental health disorder like anxiety, depression, or ADHD. And nearly 80% of those who need mental health services won't get them, according to NPR.

Left untreated, these disorders can lead to failure in school, behavioral problems, and in the most extreme cases, suicide.

Earlier this summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged pediatricians to routinely screen teens for suicide risks. But schools also play a key role in identifying kids with mental disorders.

NPR recently had a week-long series about the mental health crisis affecting millions of public school students in the U.S. Here are some recommendations from that coverage I think you should check out:

1. Six myths about suicide that every educator and parent should know

One of the biggest challenges schools, parents, and medical professionals face in identifying children who may be at risk of suicide are myths that can cloud their judgment.

David Jobes, the head of Catholic University’s Suicide Prevention Lab walks readers through some common misperceptions of suicide.

2. Mental health in schools: A hidden crisis affecting millions of students

On average nationwide, each school counselor is responsible for about 500 students. And for schools that have a school psychologist, there’s usually just one for every 1,400 students, according to the National Association of School Psychologists.

Experts say schools could play a role in identifying students with problems and helping them succeed. Yet it's a role many schools are not prepared for. Educators face the simple fact that, often because of a lack of resources, there just aren't enough people to tackle the job. And the ones who are working on it are often drowning in huge caseloads. Kids in need can fall through the cracks.

3. School nurses can be mental health "detectives," but they need help

School nurses are vital in the early intervention process for students with mental health disorders. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one nurse for every 750 students, but the actual ratio across the country can be much higher. And school nurses generally get little training when it comes to mental health, according to NPR.

You can listen to the challenges school nurses face from NPR’s Morning Edition here.

4. A silent epidemic: The mental health crisis in our schools

You can check out this slideshow to learn more about the mental health crisis in America's school. Also, see how experts say a system of teachers, counselors, school nurses, and school psychologists working together might look in a perfect world.

If you or someone you know shows the warning signs of suicide, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a medical or mental health professional, or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).