Wilson desperately needs more student support systems

Wilson+desperately+needs+more+student+support+systems

Graphic by Julia Pariser

Aaron Gorman

Schools exist for one simple purpose: to nurture and educate students. Far too often, people who run and fund schools assume that education should be the first priority and that taking care of children comes second, if it is considered at all. This could not be further from the truth. When a student’s mental health is suffering, they are unable to learn. Children having proper access to mental health services is incredibly important for a successful school experience. Unfortunately, Wilson, like almost every school in the country, is failing in that measure. 

Wilson has a student population of almost 2,000 students, yet it only has three psychologists and one therapist. This means that Wilson only has one psychologist for every 666 students and, very disturbingly, one therapist for every 2,000. Meanwhile, teens are experiencing major depressive episodes (MDEs), suicidal ideation, and deaths by suicide at shockingly high rates. In 2017, 17.8 percent of people ages 16-17 reported experiencing an MDE, and 7.8 percent of Gen-Z reported suicidal ideation. In addition to being absolutely mortifying, these numbers are also preventable by simply investing in the mental well-being of students.

Even in cases where mental health issues don’t result in severe physical problems, numerous studies have shown that they decrease a student’s ability to learn and receive good grades. A 2005 study showed that diagnosed depression was associated with a 0.49 drop in a student’s GPA, or half a letter grade, and a 2009 study showed that depression is a significant predictor of lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out. These studies, and other similar ones, prove the significance of mental health issues in education. Lack of student support systems is damaging, not only to our health, but to the one thing that many in DCPS care about more than anything else: our grades. 

During my time in the DCPS system, I have struggled with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and an eating disorder. Never, across five years, three severe mental illnesses, and one attempt at taking my life, have I felt supported by the school system. I’m very lucky in that I have understanding parents and the financial means to pay for the therapy that I need, but not everyone at Wilson has the same resources that I do. When Wilson refuses to increase funds for mental health, they put the lives of 2,000 children at risk. The statistics are horrifying, but they’re not just statistics. They are your friends, your siblings, your classmates. Without Wilson stepping up and providing what we need, people will continue to suffer. 

The lack of student support in Wilson, and all public schools, is immoral, dangerous, and cruel. When a school refuses to hire more psychologists, therapists, and social workers, it shows what the school values, and what it doesn’t. A school’s budget shows its morals more clearly than anything else a school says. When a school can’t find room in its budget to provide mental health care, that proves that the school doesn’t care for its students. A school that doesn’t care for its students has failed in its most fundamental duty. If Wilson wants to do its job, it has no other choice but to hire more psychologists, more therapists, and more social workers, without delay.