Running head: POLICY BRIEF: IMPROVING STUDENTS’ MENTAL HEALTH 1

Policy Brief: Improving students' mental health by enhancing nonacademic professional services

Amber Blankenship

Western Washington University

Nursing 412: Policy and Leadership

Bill Lonneman DNP, RN

March 6, 2017

Summary Statement
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POLICY BRIEF: IMPROVING STUDENTS MENTAL HEALTH
Mental health ailments in youth affect learning and social development. Frequencies of

depression is climbing as national rates of have increased from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1 % in 2014.

It is also said that 80% of these youth go untreated or have minimal care (Mental Health

America, 2017). The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) reports that 60% of high school students

had suicidal ideation or action (CDC, 2012).

As youth spend a large portion of time in school, faculty have an advantage to recognise

emotional and behavioral concerns. School psychologists, counselors and social workers are

most qualified to handle such trepidations but are often understaffed or occupied by other

obligations. Addressing student ratios and further educating these professionals enhances their

ability to recognize and address student needs early and improve student outcomes.

Background

It is common for youth to have fluctuating emotional needs during their maturing years. If

negative emotions persist, symptoms of depression or other behavioral disabilities may surface.

In 2010, a Healthy Youth Survey, administered by Washington State Department of Health

(DOH) and taken by Washington State tenth graders, showed 30% of these students reported

feeling sad or hopeless to a degree which affected their daily routines, for over two weeks of the

previous year. 39% of tenth graders, who took the survey, felt they did not have any adult to turn

to when they were feeling symptoms of depression. Data obtained from the same survey

revealed 18% reported having suicidal ideation within the previous year, 12% reported having a

plan and seven percent went on to attempt suicide (DOH, 2013).

Mental health disorders cause grave disability, impeding learning and social development,

which leads to poor academic achievement. It is important to identify such needs in youth so to
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POLICY BRIEF: IMPROVING STUDENTS MENTAL HEALTH
avoid tragedy and provide a safe environment for all students. Thus, ensuring their success and

improving possibilities of becoming productive members of society. School psychologists,

counselors, and social workers have repeated opportunity to identify these needs during frequent

interactions. However, staff-to-student ratios in Washington State are bellow national

recommendations. For example, the nationally recommended ratio of counselor-to-student is one

counselor for every 250 students. In 2013 Washington state rates fell at one counselor to every

516 students (Guila, 2014). Therefore, staff are forced to prioritize other responsibilities and

have less opportunity to address student mental health concerns.

Recommendations

The legislation must put in place standards of practice for nonacademic professionals. These

standards can be met by the following interventions:

 Enhance skills of these providers by promoting educational

advancement and allotting time for such opportunities.
 Increase collaboration with community Mental Health Professionals
 Create a task force with selected council members to evaluate staffing

ratios, funding, and identify other professional or student needs.

The necessity to support these professional members is authentic and crucial to protect the

safely and wellbeing of our youth while concurrently addressing public health needs further

upstream. By addressing the mental health of youth today we ameliorate social structures of

tomorrow.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Youth violence: Facts at a glance.

Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-datasheet-a.pdf
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POLICY BRIEF: IMPROVING STUDENTS MENTAL HEALTH
Guila, T. (2014). United states student-to-counselor ratios for elementary and secondary schools

–20011-2012 data year. Location: American Counseling Association, Government

Affairs Office. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/public-

policy-faqs-and-documents/2013-counselor-to-student-ratio-chart.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Improving students' mental health by enhancing nonacademic professional services,

SHB 1377, 65th Cong. (2017)

Mental Health America (2017). The state of mental health in America 2017. Retrieved from

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/state-mental-health-america

Washington State Department of Health (2013). Suicide. Retrieved from

http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/5500/IV-SUI2013.pdf

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