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Assessing the Mental Health Needs of Elementary School Students To Inform the Development of School-Based Mental Health Services

18 April 2008


Unmet mental health needs of children can lead to individual and societal consequences (Committee on School Health, 2004; President's New Freedom Commission, 2003). Unfortunately, only a small percentage of children with mental health problems actually receive treatment (Weist & Evans, 2005; Rones & Hoagwood, 2000). There are many barriers that hinder access to services. However, many of these barriers can be prevented when services are provided within the school setting. Therefore, school-based mental health services are becoming more popular within the United States. Before employing school-based mental health services, schools should assess the actual needs of their students and barriers that are preventing needs from being met (Paternite & Johnston, 2005). This study focused on assessing the mental health needs and barriers to services of rural elementary school students in order to inform the school district of possible pathways of addressing mental health needs via program implementation. Results indicated that the some children may have mental health difficulties. Many of the barriers impeding in the utilization of mental health services, as noted by participants, indicated problems with the cost of seeking mental health services, lack of knowledge about mental health and community services, or the stigma of having mental health problems within the community. The discussion of the results and recommendations for the school district for the improvement of the mental health of its student population is provided.


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