Colleges Mental Health

"He was in second grade when he tried to hang himself."

A parent who wanted to remain anonymous to protect their child did want people to know of their support for Delaware House Bill 100, which would provide the First State's school with guidelines and additional resources for providing mental health services. They know how important those services are for students that need them in the moment. 

"They really got him through a tough year."

The bill establishes a specialized unit dedicated to mental health services and dictates limitations for the ratio at which K-5 schools should operate, citing 250 students to one fulltime counselor, social worker, or licensed clinical social worker. It would also require one school psychologist for every 700 K-5 students. 

A better handle on student population for medical professionals is a necessity. One in five youth are affected by a mental health disorder, according to a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study. 

"I was the only licensed mental health person for 900 children in middle school," said clinician Erin Fahnoe. 

That same NIMH study show 50% of lifetime mental health illnesses begin by age 14, and the Centers for Disease Control has found that suicides are the second-leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 14 years old. Meanwhile Delaware's own school districts have reported 86% of elementary schools don't employ a social worker and their ratios for students to counselors or psychologists exceed national best practices.  

Fahnoe knows, a year into the pandemic, services like hers are going to become more in-demand than ever before, as remote learning has made it all the more difficult to spot issues early on, and students who may have never otherwise experienced an issue might find themselves in need of assistance now.

"There are kids who didn't have any mental health issues who are going to have them now," Fahnoe said.

But that doesn't mean there's no hope. It's simply a matter of establishing the foundations necessary to begin providing better support. 

"Kids are resilient," said Nemours AI duPont Hospital for Children's Dr. Meghan Walls. "Adolescents are resilient."

A child psychologist, children will bunce back from even the traumas of a pandemic with usually more resilience than adults. But here are going to be more children with issues like anxiety and depression than previously. And the best place to provide that aid is where they're easiest to find. 

"When you meet kids where they are, you have a much better chance of both catching things early, and being able to do that preventative work," Walls said. 

Read Delaware House Bill 100 in its entirety here: 

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NBC10's Tim Furlong contributed to this report.