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Mental Illness in the Classroom

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April 10, 2013
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Aaron Gilbert

School Buses Behind Barbed Wire

Mental Illness in the Classroom: Public Safety Concerns

A compelling Palm Beach Post article focuses on the epic challenges faced by schools, kids, families and providers when mental illness arrives in the classroom.    For parents, the heartbreak of having a child with mental illness is exacerbated by the requisite enforcement of public safety on school grounds.   Educators, local officials and support providers have no choice but to handcuff and cart away children to psychiatric hospitals when student behaviors are so erratic and disruptive that they become a danger to themselves or others.  While adults come to understand this is a logical course of action, the confusion and fear experienced by both the ill child and his or her classmates is deep and lasting.

Beyond the Usual Teacher Skill Set

Educators have long been focused on teaching to a broad range of needs and abilities but managing a child with a mental health diagnosis is both difficult and beyond the customary skill set and training of most teachers.  Most schools simply don’t have the resources to handle mentally fragile kids, and families are left to patch together support services in the community.  The recession has eroded the wrap around mental health services that can help support and even prevent mental health crisis in children and families.

Community Mental Health Support is Crucial

Every system connected to children with mental illness agrees that prevention, education and community mental health services are a critical part of the solution, yet budget cutbacks have decimated these resources.  Sadly, this lack of mental health support in the school system and community at large can lead to an escalation in symptoms resulting in a psychiatric hospital admission.

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