As the pandemic continues to take a toll on children and their mental health, it remains difficult to get them the support they need.

School counselors are often a primary resource for mental wellness and guidance, but few are found in American schools. According to the latest data from the American School Counselor Association, there was one counselor for every 424 students in the 2019-20 school year. In Illinois, the ratio was one counselor for every 592 students. The association recommends one counselor for every 250 students.

“School counselors can provide a variety of mental health supports to young people in schools, including one-on-one short-term meetings, as well as small group interventions like bereavement counselling, stress management groups, anger management groups, then also school counselors. doing class visits where they can talk about mental health topics like managing stress, signs of anxiety, and other mental health topics in those areas, said Autumn Cabell, assistant professor of counseling at the DePaul University.

The US Surgeon General issued a public advisory in December with recommendations to address what it called a “youth mental health crisis“. One of the recommendations was “to expand the school mental health workforce, which includes using federal and local resources to hire and train additional staff such as school counsellors, nurses, social workers and school psychologists.

TaRael Kee, president of the Illinois School Counselor Association, agrees with the surgeon general’s recommendation, but hopes for more recruiting funding.

“I think money needs to be allocated to hire more school counselors, but we also need to allocate money to great programs like DePaul so they can market the school counseling program and attract more applicants because that we need school counselors all over the world. state,” Kee said. “We need to develop more programs in the state and I know we don’t have a ton in Illinois and we need more and we need to try to find a way to have school counselors at all levels.”

Kee says school counselors are often overworked and overwhelmed, which can negatively impact a student and their mental health.

“They are not able to go out and do some of these direct services, so they have to be there to do these classroom courses using the national ASCA (American School Counselor Association) model to change mindsets and behaviors, to to lift students through tough times, to help them build resilience when they are going through tough times, like we are now,” Kee said.

Autumn Cabell wrote an op-ed for USA Today and called the Surgeon General’s advice “a clear call to increase and diversify the ranks of mental health professionals in our nation’s schools.”

“It even starts in our graduate programs for school counseling, marketing materials to prospective students who want to serve young people in the school system and also market to black and brown men,” Cabell said. “We have a shortage of male school counselors in school systems across the country, and so intentionally, and even the marketing materials that are used to recruit students into school counseling programs and then once they are there in these school counseling programs, retaining them in school counseling programs supporting them by letting them know that they are needed, that they are important, that there are jobs for them here in the labor market work for school guidance and supporting them every step of the way.

Stephanie Miller-Henderson is a Professional School Counselor for a CPS Elementary School. She is the only counselor in a school with approximately 400 students, a workload far greater than the 1:250 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

“The recommendation is there for a reason, and so I really think some of those challenges would be at least halved if the ratio, you know, was the recommended ratio across the board in all of our schools across the country,” Miller says. -Henderson. “I would say I feel like I have support, with the various funding and things that have happened during the pandemic. We were able to receive support from community organizations that visited our buildings to advise students. We have a social worker presence, so I really feel the support is there.

Cabell says she has noticed a shift in the way America views mental health and now is an opportunity to capitalize on meeting student needs and work towards smaller workloads for counselors. school.