Schools Need More Counselors in Order to Promote Mental Health

Schools Need More Counselors in Order to Promote Mental Health

Jack O'Connor, Contributing Writer, San Juan Capistrano CA

School counselors give the guidance and assistance that enables students to thrive in their academics while at the same time maintaining good mental health. Despite this, in many school districts school counselors are either being laid off to save money or are being forced to take on more responsibilities that limit their ability to help students.


The role of school counselor is to give advice to students on their academic planning, to provide short-term counseling sessions, and to work with teachers and staff to identify and resolve student academic and mental health issues.


While school counselors aren’t meant to be long-term therapists for students, their position enables them to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health, assist students in their academic and psychological needs, and guide students towards future success.


However due to decreasing school budgets and an ever increasing student population, school counselors have had to deal with increased workloads and have had to take on new responsibilities that distract them from their main goal of helping students.


In many schools, school counselors are required to substitute classes, monitor AP tests, or sign excuses for students who are tardy or late to class. This puts a greater burden on counselors’ workloads and makes it harder for counselors to do their real job.


School districts increasing the amount of responsibilities for school counselors, at the end of the day hurts students both academically and mentally.


In many schools, there simply aren’t enough school counselors to accommodate student needs. Not having enough school counselors means students get less time devoted to their academic planning and shorter counseling sessions.


In the worst case scenario, a student on the brink of suicide or another mental health disorder can be denied a counselling session because their counselor was too busy with other students.


“I’m just overwhelmed by the number of students and their problems that it impedes my ability to build a rapport with the most troubled students. A lot of kids are just falling in the cracks” said Janine Menard, a school counselor in Arizona. Menard is frustrated that the amount of students she was forced to console may have caused her to miss the warning signs when one of her students committed suicide.


The American School Counselors Association (ASCA) recommends a student to school counselor ratio of 250 students to one school counselor, but across the US, there is only 1 counselor for every 482 students.


The obvious solution here is for school districts to hire more school counselors. However, most school budgets are smaller than they were prior to the 2008 recession, so a lot of districts simply can’t afford to. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There are three ways you can push for more school counselors.


First, you can support local bond measures in elections that would provide increased school funding. If you can’t vote yet there are still other ways you can support the bonds. You can volunteer to help spread awareness or you could simply talk to your friends and family who can vote about the bond measures.


Second, you can show up to school board meetings and email school board members, and demand for the hiring of more school counselors.


Finally, you can advocate for state or federal laws that would mandate k-12 schools have at least one school counselor. In 19 states across the US, including California, Texas, and New York, k-12 schools are not required to have a school counselor.


Many schools in those aforementioned 19 states still have school counselors even though there are no laws requiring them to have one, but we still need this to be mandated by law. This is because it would force schools who still don’t have counselors to get one, it would reaffirm the importance of school counselors in school, and it would protect school counselors from future budget cuts.


For many, school represents the hardest time in their life. The stress that comes from school and the pressure parents can place on grades can be overwhelming. A school counselor is the only thing between them and a mental breakdown, and that is why we need more counselors.