Telehealth could be the future of mental healthcare for students

Rural school's choice to invest in telehealth sets positive example for other schools

· Sep 24, 2019 Tweet

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

With the recent introduction of remote mental health advising to students, everything’s copacetic in Wisconsin’s small and sincere Lake Holcombe School District.

Over the summer, Holcombe announced its plan to bring telehealth counseling services to their schools. This new plan, aided by easy access to therapists through video conference, aims to help students of all ages through a critical time in their lives in which mental health can play a big role.

This initiative is as smart as it is safe and preventative. Mental health has been looked over for long enough, and a plan to start addressing it during the ages where it can be the most detrimental could fix some serious problems.

According to conclusions from the 2015 Children’s Mental Health Report, of the 74.5 million children in the United States, 17.1 million of them have mental health disorders. Half of them arise before the age of 14, which shows how crucial it is for kids in schools to get help early on.

The Child Mind Institute also says 80% of kids with anxiety, 60% of kids with depression and 40% of kids with diagnosable ADHD do not get treatment.

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“In spite of the magnitude of the problem, lack of awareness and entrenched stigma keep the majority of these young people from getting help,” the Institute’s website says.

These numbers are outrageous. So many children going to school are dealing with too much at once, usually in an environment that doesn’t wait up for them. Not slowing down to check on these kids will affect them for life, and possibly exacerbate pre-existing conditions. And these problems extend into college.

As a student who knows the ins and outs of grade inflation, test anxiety, social media influence and most of the other social aspects protruding daily life, I think the accessibility of a professional counselor to work through those issues is imperative to leading a healthy lifestyle.

A program like this would not only work great in a primary school district, but in a secondary institution as well. Mental problems don’t go away with time and triggers that can cause the arrival of problems don’t disappear.

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In college, even more layers are added on to the stress students have to deal with. The newness of independence and distance from home can confuse and complicate a person’s headspace, and being in that new and strange place can prohibit someone from getting help.

With this form of counseling through remote video chat, students that are not familiar with the health community in Madison would be able to reach out for help more easily, and also more effectively, since the program’s accessibility caters so well to the jam-packed schedules students always seem to have. Considering this compelling context, it would do the University of Wisconsin well to adopt a plan like this.

According to a 2015 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, people who had health insurance were around 20-25% more likely to go to therapy.

This increase is presumably due to the fact that those people wanted therapy the whole time, but were just being held back for financial reasons. According to the Wisconsin Public Radio, telehealth services will be covered in the Lake Holcombe district by parents’ health insurance or Medicaid, making it easier for their kids to have it.

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Additionally, according to the American Psychological Association, of the many people who have received therapy, a large amount have found it useful.

“A … poll released in May, ‘Therapy in America 2004,’ and co-sponsored by Psychology Today magazine and PacifiCare Behavioral Health, found that an estimated 59 million people have received mental health treatment in the past two years, and that 80 percent of them have found it effective,” APA said. 

So, if there is a large need for kids to have help with mental issues, they’re more likely to get it if it’s covered, and studies show that they’ll most likely get positive results from it, then there’s no reason for this program not to be rocking it in any other school as well — including at universities.

Mental health is a serious, usually overlooked problem, and it needs to be understood and addressed everywhere. Lake Holcombe School District is taking the right step in protecting its children, and it’s time for other places, including UW, to do it too.

Katie Hardie ([email protected]) is a freshman studying nursing.


This article was published Sep 24, 2019 at 8:45 am and last updated Sep 24, 2019 at 1:46 am


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