Current mental health screenings alone not enough to help students

4 months 4 days 6 hours ago Friday, January 19 2018 Jan 19, 2018 Friday, January 19, 2018 4:09:00 PM CST January 19, 2018 in News
By: Maia McDonald, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that 80 percent of state students who needed treatment for serious mental health issues, did not receive sufficient public health support. According to the study, there was a high variance between mental health screenings performed by teachers and administrators for more than 97,000 young Missourians in 2015. 

"We were looking at the accuracy of mental health screenings done for elementary students and we used data that reflected three different districts from across three different states and we're basically looking to try to understand how much of the variance between student ratings was coming from the students themselves or other sources,"  Melissa Maras, a research consultant at MU’s Assessment Resource Center.

According to Maras, they wanted to find out whether teacher differences or other factors may have had an effect on mental health screenings for potentially at-risk students. 

"We're trying to identify students who need additional support, looking not only to the teachers who are terrific reporters but also if there's a school counselor or administrator, asking there parent or guardian, other adults who may be involved in their lives, a coach or someone out in the community." Maras said. 

Maras said getting information for multiple sources like this can help to create a more well-rounded picture of a students needs. She also said that the data helps shed a light on the issues Missouri faces.

"Our schools are doing a really great job with the resources they have but unfortunately they have very limited resources. In terms of statewide data none of the ratios in terms of student to professional are at the recommended level. So we just simply don't have enough school counselors, school psychiatrists, school psychologists to meet these needs," Maras said.

Currently, the ratio of school-employed mental health professionals to students in Missouri for the 2016-2017 school year was 1 social worker for every 2,065 students while the ideal ratio is 1 social worker for every 250 students. Daniel Rector of the Hook Center for Educational Leadership and District Renewal, who works alongside Maras, said there's a lot that can be done to support young students. 

"When I think about how we can best support all students I think there should really be a focus, an emphasis, across the state, across the nation is really systems for collaboration. What I think about when supporting the child, what does the school do, what does the parents do, it's really about how do we come together as a structure as an entire process to support our kids," Rector said. 

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