Education News

Advocates, Parents Push for Mental Health Support in Schools

National school tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut have put more attention on school security and mental health. In Texas, advocates and legislators are looking at ways to improve mental health services in schools

Nearly 20 percent of all students in Harris County have a mental illness or an addictive disorder.

That’s the estimate from Mental Health America of Greater Houston.

Andrea Usanga with the group says it’s a big challenge for schools.

If it’s not treated, mental illness can interfere with academics and success in life.

“I believe a lot of school districts recognize the need for behavioral health professionals and nurses on every campus. But again they’re kind of operating with one hand tied behind their back. They don’t have the funding to do so.”

Over the past year advocates, parents and school employees here in Houston have worked together to figure out how schools can better help students with mental illness.

Angelina Hudson says an early diagnosis made a big difference for her daughter who has ADHD.

Hudson says more training for educators would help other kids.

“It’s a training. But the outcomes are not that the teachers or administrators or parents walk away with the ability to diagnose. It changes the mindset that maybe, just maybe, some of the behaviors that they’re seeing could be something else.”

Other recommendations include giving schools back the money the state cut in 2011 and requiring a counselor on every campus.

Currently elementary schools have one counselor for every 500 students.

But there’s no such requirement for high schools.

One bill filed in the Texas Legislature would change that and require one counselor for every 300 high schoolers.


Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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