School counselors — school psychologists, social workers, child welfare and attendance supervisors — all play a part in assisting students in coping with crises, managing emotions, and overcoming barriers to learning. The education think tank Chalkbeat found that 12 of 18 of the country’s largest school districts started the school year with nearly 1,000 unfilled mental health positions.
Proponents of on-campus school counselors say the support network helps students set short- and long-term goals, improve attendance, mitigate conflicts, and prevent suicide. Counselors are considered first responders at times, with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health reporting that suicide attempts were 25 percent lower in the general population among those who engage in counseling.
HIgh school student Alexa Kotlyar attends a public high school in the San Francisco area with more than 2,500. Sometimes the number of students seeking help can be a problem.
“At a huge school, with so many students my counselors don’t have very much time for me,” Kotlyar said. “I often end up talking to other adults in my life or even friends instead of a counselor. When I do meet with my counselor it is for a very short amount of time and it makes me feel like I am just a task on their To Do List, not that they are there to support me.”
Freshman year I reached a point in my life where I could not handle everyday life on my own. My parents had just gotten divorced, COVID-19 hit and my therapy stopped with the pandemic. It was at this time that I reached out to my high school counselor for help. Asking for help was hard and I really doubted that decision when the counselor called my mom. That decision potentially saved my life, said Emma F. as she shared her story on her blog.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) reports that 75% of students benefit from counseling. The APA points out that counselors provide academic, career, and personal guidance to students, which leads to better self-management skills and more informed decisions about their school experience and future goals.
Not everyone gives counselors top marks, however. A Public Agenda research study commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation finds that most people who graduated from public high schools in the last decade did not feel that their guidance counselors provided any meaningful advice. The Public Agenda study also found that 48 percent of the former high school students polled indicated that they felt their high school guidance counselors saw them as “just another face in the crowd.” The study claims that guidance counselors spend too much time dealing with discipline issues, scheduling and other administrative duties to actually devote meaningful time advising students.
Edited by Nykeya Woods