Originally Released: September, 1999
Patient / Consumer Inquiries: 1-800-492-5538
Media Contact: 410-328-8919
The shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado earlier this year is one of the worst examples of school violence in U.S. history. Yet, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) estimates that nearly three million incidents of crime occur on or near school grounds each year.
In an effort to address issues of school violence and the emotional health of students, more than 500 educators, school health professionals, and mental health experts from around the world will meet in Denver, Colorado, on September 16-18, for the Fourth Annual Conference on Advancing School-Based Mental Health. The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center.
The event is sponsored by the Center for School Mental Health Assistance (CSMHA) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. CSMHA is a national resource and information center, providing consultation and technical assistance to school-based mental health programs and professionals throughout the country, including school-based mental health programs in 21 Baltimore public schools.
"Studies show that one student out of every four would benefit from mental health services at some point in their lives. But fewer than one third of those students receive any treatment at all," says Mark Weist, Ph.D., director of CSMHA and associate professor of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Experts say access to proper mental health care for children is limited. Many barriers still exist for families seeking treatment at community based centers. Some are afraid of the social stigma of receiving mental health services while others may not be able afford care. In other cases, parents are simply not aware of the mental heath services available for children.
"Many children suffer from social or emotional problems, or feelings of constant fear and hopelessness. These problems can impact their schoolwork, lead to post traumatic stress disorders, or cause students to act out or become violent themselves," says Olga Acosta, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and program coordinator for CSMHA.
School-based mental health programs bring help to troubled kids who need it, where they need it. "Kids are the most neglected group of people who need mental health services in this country, but by bringing mental health services to them in school we can go a long way toward bridging that gap," says Dr. Weist.
According to Weist, less than 10 percent of schools in the U.S. offer comprehensive mental health care for youth in both special and regular education. The conference will focus attention on the need for school-based mental health programs and to improve services for identifying and treating at-risk children.
Also discussed will be ways to advocate for local and legislative changes, and make sure mental health services are addressing the specific needs effectively.
Other conference topics will include violence prevention, responding to crisis, teen suicide reduction, support programs, and the state of mental health services for children here and abroad.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.