Posted: September 30th, 2023
Identify a proposed state and federal policy that aligns with your advocacy
Advocacy priority topic: Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses
Identify a proposed state and federal policy that aligns with your advocacy priorities for your vulnerable population. Clearly describe and provide evidence to support this policy.
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A Proposal to Require Onsite School Mental Health Professionals to Support Chronically Ill Adolescents
Chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and arthritis negatively impact the mental health of adolescents and their psychosocial development (Pinquart & Shen, 2011). Conditions that cause physical limitations, stigma and social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem in youth (Maslow et al., 2020). As adolescents spend most of their time in school, it is a key setting to provide mental health support. This paper proposes requiring all public schools to have a licensed mental health professional available onsite to help chronically ill students.
Background on Issue
Research shows chronic illnesses are associated with poorer mental health outcomes in adolescents (Fleming et al., 2019). When youth receive their disease diagnosis and treatment, they face new challenges adjusting socially and managing their condition physically and emotionally. Without support, chronic conditions disrupt normal development and educational achievement. While some schools offer counseling, access is inconsistent and limited (Dvorsky & Brener, 2013). More needs to be done to support the growing number of chronically ill adolescents.
The proposed policy would mandate all public schools have a licensed mental health professional like a counselor or psychologist available onsite for a minimum of one day per week. This provider could conduct individual and group sessions, helping students process their condition and develop coping strategies. They would also liaise with teachers to coordinate classroom accommodations and wellbeing monitoring. The position would be funded through existing school mental health allocations and additional state/federal grants.
Research shows school-based mental health services improve psychosocial outcomes for chronically ill youth (Fleming et al., 2019). When adolescents receive counseling and support, they better adjust to living with their condition and have higher achievement, life satisfaction and wellbeing. Expanding consistent access through an onsite provider would help more chronically ill students receive vital mental health care where they spend their days. It could reduce depression, anxiety and other issues before they escalate.
In conclusion, implementing a policy requiring onsite school mental health professionals would help address the needs of adolescents with chronic illnesses. The school setting provides an opportunity to intervene early and support students’ mental health, which improves their condition management and educational success. This proposal deserves consideration to better serve this vulnerable population.