PALMER — “When you’re feeling anxious, it’s like there’s a magnifying glass on you,” according to Shorey Raymond, LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), adjustment counselor for Palmer High School. “What may seem like a small problem to a person feeling normally may be huge to someone dealing with anxiety.
But learning skills for responding to stress more effectively can allow a huge problem to become a smaller problem, which is easier to cope with. A new collaboration is helping address that here in the Palmer Schools.”
With funding that the Center for Human Development (CHD) secured in collaboration with the Palmer School District from the Bank of America Charitable Gift Fund, a master’s level clinician from CHD is now co-located at Palmer High School. The CHD clinician will spend 15 to 20 hours a week diagnosing and treating up to 50 students who need support to address mental health and emotional wellness.
“Kids are dealing daily with incredible stressors like the opiate epidemic, other substance abuse, social pressures, domestic violence, and trauma,” said Raymond, who has been a licensed mental health counselor for 11 years and on the staff of Palmer High School for 4½ years. “These stressors pose risks to the mental well-being of kids today, maybe more than they or their families realize. Especially for adolescents, it can be difficult to overcome personal issues by yourself. We as adults can model therapeutic relationships, and this collaboration with CHD is an innovative way to do it.”
And yet, while the program in Palmer is new, it is reflective of a national issue facing large and small school districts throughout the country. So much so, in fact, that the subject was highlighted as part of an NPR series on the seriousness of mental health concerns among school age children. The problem was described as “a silent epidemic.”
Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. And yet most children—nearly 80 percent—who need mental health services won’t get them. The issues these children face can lead to problems which then affect the school in the form of chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior and dropping out.
“The issue of mental health in schools is not just a local issue, it’s national, with implications for families, teachers, administrators and entire communities,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president in the Office of Advancement for CHD. “By inserting mental health professionals directly into the school community we are providing another resource to assist school staff and professionals in supporting their children and school families.
“We know there are children and families who are struggling and that teachers are feeling the effects of this need, so CHD is coming in as a resource,” she went on. “If we are effective in our efforts to help the kids who are having behavioral health issues, that has a positive effect on everybody. In a classroom with fewer distractions, educational goals become more attainable and it’s a community-wide outcome. The children in need receive immediate attention to address their emotional wellness, and the school district receives an additional support. It’s a win-win with positive life-long impact. CHD is thrilled to support Palmer in this way, and we are thankful for the relationship we have with them.”