Why address mental health in SBHCs?
Nationwide, a staggering number of young people suffer from diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. Most adult mental health issues begin in adolescence. Yet the majority of youth who need care do not receive it. Barriers to access include lack of or limited health insurance for mental health care, social stigma, and adults’ inability to recognize the issues, including teachers and parents or guardians. Under-identification is of particular concern in schools and primary care settings—two systems with which nearly all children interact with and where identification can likely occur. Children who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) and other underrepresented children, in particular, are less likely to receive needed mental health care and more likely to receive punitive consequences. Even when they do receive care, there is significant variation in the quality of care they receive compared with their peers. The effects of untreated mental health disorders are profound, including greater risk for poor academic outcomes, suicide, substance use, and unemployment in adulthood.
How do SBHCs address mental health?
School-based health centers are the ideal location for primary care and mental health staff to collaboratively address students’ physical and mental health needs—leading to greater success in school and life. The vast majority of children and adolescents who receive mental health services access those services at school. Mental health services embedded within SBHCs create a continuum of integrated care that improves children’s mental health, physical health, and educational attainment. SBHCs’ proximity to students and ability to provide mental health care in a safe, confidential, and de-stigmatized environment allows for the development of ongoing relationships between the provider, student, and family to support student well-being throughout childhood and adolescence.
School-Based Health Alliance Resources
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