Mental Health Issues in School

School-Based Mental Health by Christina Karmecy

School districts work hard to foster, promote and inspire excellence amongst their student body. Student achievement and success can only transpire if all stakeholders work together to break down the barriers that inhibit students from working at their best ability.   Childhood mental health disorders are one of the prominent concerns in the positive development of our youth. A childhood mental health disorder is described by The Center for Disease Control as a serious change in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions. Symptoms can cause dysfunction at home and in school, as well as in the ability to create healthy relationships. Without proper treatment maladaptation can continue into adulthood and interfere with the ability be a functioning member of society. The main childhood mental health disorders include; depression, anxiety, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder.

I am an elementary school counselor at South Side Area School District, a rural school located in Hookstown, Pa. Like many schools, we have utilized best practices to monitor and assess students’ behavior throughout their school careers. Multi-tiered approaches have helped distinguish and support those students with higher needs, whether the problem stems from academic, emotional, or behavioral concerns. We also have building SAP teams that aide in monitoring student progress and recommending both in and out of school resources to provide additional intervention. Our main downfall has always been outside mental health recommendation follow through.

The school district is the hub of this community. Every school event is packed with overwhelming community support and participation. School meetings are well received, and any counseling intervention I have promoted, including my small group counseling, are always well attended. The problem therefore is not acknowledging need, or accepting help, the problem lies in access to care. This is my 5th school year at the district, and for every year I have worked here, providing school-based mental health services to our students and families has been one of our superintendent’s dream goals.

At the end of last year, I was made aware that a fellow county school district piloted a school-based counseling program in conjunction with a local mental health provider. With pure excitement, I immediately called the school and started asking questions. The process worked much quicker than I could have ever imagined. I was soon put into contact with Beaver County Behavioral Health (BCBH), who organizes our county’s school-based services. Myself, and some of our administration met with personnel at BCBH to determine if South Side had a suitable need for site-based services. As a result of our remote location, as well as our high SAP and counseling service participation, our school was able to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) that would be send out to all county providers who would like a chance to become our school’s mental health provider.

The deadline for RFP applications was set for mid-summer. Our school then had to develop a team made up of faculty and at least one parent to review all applications. BCBH also developed a review board made up of staff and other county agencies including The Prevention Network, The Beaver County Intermediate Unit and Value Behavioral Health. Both teams met and compared scores to determine which provider would be most beneficial to our school. Western PA Psych Care (WPPC) was the provider that best matched our needs.

Editor Comment: End Part 1–Come back next week to read about the steps that were followed. Visit the Events Tab to register for an important meeting on Mental Health Issues in School

Christina Karmecy M.Ed., NCC

School Counselor

South Side Elementary School


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