SALT LAKE CITY — A survey sent to Utah’s school districts has estimated that over 100,000 students are in need of mental health services.
The survey was conducted on behalf of the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee of the Utah State Legislature.
Results were presented to the subcommittee Monday.
The survey indicated district leaders across the state felt there was not enough mental health help available in schools.
Almost one out of five students need mental health help, the survey claimed, but of those, fewer than 20 percent were getting it.
School officials said there were not enough resources to meet the huge demand.
“Mental health and safety concerns are our top priority,” said Brad Christensen, director of the Student and Family Resources Department of the Davis School District. “It’s a critical discussion. It has to happen. Our state has an increased need in mental health prevention as it relates to safety.”
One respondent said one reason parents didn’t seek help for their children was the cost of professional help.
“Many of our students with the greatest mental health needs, who are a danger to themselves and others, do not have access to funding to get the medical services they need,” they said.
Another commenter said they have already seen tragic consequences in their district.
“We have seen a significant increase in mental health issues with our students including three student suicides in the last six months,” they said.
Lawmakers also heard from mental health professionals. Christensen said Davis County initiated a Mindfulness program that was working for students. The program has been instituted in more than 60 schools so far.
“It teaches kids and teachers how to deal with their stress,” said Kristen Reisig, clinical director at Davis Behavioral Health. “It teaches how to be on point with how you want to focus your attention, so that you’re not thinking about what happened with mom and dad before you left or what happened in your own home. You can bring your attention to where it needs to be while you’re at school.”
Also discussed was better face-to-face access between student access to mental health professional through video.
“I think you have to think outside the box, particularly as you look at funding and in manpower in providing those resources,” said Christensen. “I think telehealth is a great place to start.”