As a social work graduate student at the University of Utah, and a school counseling intern at an elementary school in Salt Lake City School District, I have become aware of the increased need for mental health services in schools.
In my work with students, children as young as 7 years old are dealing with self-harming behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Children are bombarded with violent, degrading and harmful words and images on a daily basis through YouTube, social media and other media, as well as from their peers. Additionally, they experience cruel cyberbullying through apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Suicide is normalized by phrases such as, “Nobody likes you, you should just kill yourself” or, “I hate my life, I just want to die.”
Children often don’t actually want to end their own life, and don’t understand the effects the suggestion has on others, either. But in many cases, children don’t have the vocabulary or emotional insight to effectively communicate how they really feel. By educating children on the impact their words have on others, teaching and practicing empathy, and providing them with the skills to work through their feelings in a healthy way, we empower students with the tools necessary to create kinder, more compassionate schools.
This is why I believe every single elementary, middle and high school needs licensed mental health professionals on site. Students need more than just academic advising and career counseling. They need social-emotional learning and mental health services, as well.
Heidi Kulicke, Millcreek