Many school districts do provide some mental health services for their students. Guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists comprise a support network for them to rely on. But as things stand now, those services are seldom mandated, and they are not protected from cuts that keep school budgets under the 2 percent tax cap that is now the law in New York state.
So, when it comes time to make budget cuts, mental health services too often end up on the chopping block, along with sports, music and art. But when was the last time you heard parents and students protesting the elimination of a psychologist? When it comes down to a stark choice, a community is more likely to fight to keep a football program than mental health professionals, and that’s a shame.
Creating a state mandate for mental health programs would make them safe from cuts. But the state and federal governments have imposed enough unfunded mandates as it is. If mental health services are to be mandated, the mandate should come with state or federal money to help pay for and expand these programs.
It’s time our school communities started focusing as much on students’ psychological preparation for adulthood as we do on their physical health. Making sure that our children are properly equipped to cope with the stresses life will throw at them should be a priority for every one of us.