Student Behavioral Health and Wellbeing
The COVID-19 pandemic and the social, political and economic turmoil it produced did not create the mental health crisis faced by many Idaho communities, but it exacerbated the problem for both students and educators.
As the center of our communities, public schools should be among the safest places in Idaho for students, parents and staff. Mental health is an increasingly important piece of that equation. Our schools need resources, staffing and programs that help students facing mental health issues, while also protecting their peers and school staff.
A solutions-oriented approach focuses on how to prevent violence, disruptive behaviors, depression, anxiety and student suicide. Idaho’s suicide rate in 2022 was the fifth highest in the country, much higher than the national average. By providing resources for mental health services for schools, we can help students manage their emotions, prevent learning loss and save student lives.
Idaho’s chronic underfunding of public education leaves many educators and administrators to manage mental health incidents in their classrooms. Without more resources, our inability to prevent mental health incidents like suicide will only become more common, disruptive and heartbreaking.
How does this issue impact educators?
Educators are often verbally and physically assaulted by students with a variety of emotional and behavioral issues. While eager to help students in distress, educators cannot be expected to be solely responsible for dealing with outbursts and aggression in their classrooms and still deliver a quality education to every student.
How does this issue impact students without mental health issues?
Mental and behavioral health incidents in the classroom interrupt learning for the entire class. If the school lacks a professional mental health worker, educators must manage the incident and keep other students safe. This further interrupts learning and can negatively aff ect the mental health of other students.
How many school mental health professionals does Idaho need?
The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250 to one. According to 2021 ASCA data, Idaho has a student-to-counselor ratio of 493 to one, meaning that Idaho’s school counselors serve nearly twice as many students as recommended. This means many students will not receive the help they need.
What Do Idahoans Think?
An an IEA-commissioned poll from May 2022, 89% of registered Republican voters said ensuring students have access to certified, high-quality school counselors and mental health professionals is important or very important.