Educators are often the first to notice mental health issues in children. That’s why throughout the month of October, we observe National Depression Education & Awareness Month, which aims to recognize signs, symptoms and treatments of depression.
Depression among youth and teens continues to climb. According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youth (ages 12-17) experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
Access to education and resources through schools empowers students to join in on the conversation regarding mental health awareness and literacy to ensure no one feels alone in their depression. Seeking help, whether that be through a school counselor, trusted teacher, parent, or friend, should be seen as a sign of strength.
Advocating for School Mental Health Services
In recent years, states have implemented policy changes to expand comprehensive school mental health systems (CSMHS), that improve access to mental health programs, services and support for adolescents.
On the federal level, there are several initiatives in place to support and develop these essential school programs, including:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH)provides funding for health and wellbeing through schools, including programs and services to support students’ mental health.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Alliance Project Aware partners with state mental health agencies to increase awareness of mental health in schools, offer training to school staff and connects students with behavioral health services.
- The School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program, authorized by the 2020 Department of Education budget, provides $10 million to six states to increase the number of mental health service providers in schools.
*Source: National Academy for State Health Policy
In the Chicagoland area, where Erika’s Lighthouse was founded, these programs exist:
- Chicago HOPES for Kids is designing comprehensive academic and social-emotional support for middle schoolers experiencing homelessness.
- Center for Childhood Resilience at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago provides training, coaching, school-based interventions and other services through partnerships with schools and youth-serving agencies
- Consumer and Family Care Line is a hotline for Illinois resources for questions about mental health services and referrals to a mental health provider, available Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm, except holidays at 866.359.7953
Schools are a primary source of mental health services for children who may not be able to access outside means of help. However, these programs often take time and many dedicated stakeholders to implement even on an individual school level, and students still may not receive all the help they need. Resources like Erika’s Lighthouse support parents and educators with a mission to educate and bring awareness to adolescent depression and can even assist in beginning the policy-making process for your area.
How Erika’s Lighthouse Can Help Your School
The heart of Erika’s Lighthouse and the foundation for change is education. We offer free mental health and depression awareness programs to spark conversations in your classrooms. Through our Classroom Programs, we offer valid and reliable resources that educate and empower.
Videos and lessons are completely turnkey and ready to use immediately. Our material is flexible and adaptable to your school’s curriculum needs. For educators, we’re here to support you with all-inclusive support at no cost.
You can take the first step by creating an account on our Resource Portal.