The current culture in our education system is a complicated one. School is not just about learning in reading and writing, but a setting in which students acquire social skills and knowledge. It is a place where they learn to navigate the social mores and the community culture with which they have grown. It is also an environment where students can seek support, if they so choose.
Over the past year I have been a sexuality educator and a counselor in schools throughout Delaware. All of my clients seek counseling for mental health issues. This is not uncommon. The CDC estimates that nearly 1 in 5 children under the age of 17 experience some mental health issue that impairs their life. As educators, it is our responsibility to promote their mental health wellness. So what does this require, especially as sexuality educators?
It means that we need to work with mental health professionals at schools. There is often a climate in which mental health professionals are shunned, and not incorporated into the school environment. A belief that we do not need to work together, because the two - education and mental health - have littlein common. However, as educators, we should work together with counselors, to promote the wellbeing of the students we work with. We are all aware that teaching about sexuality is a sensitive topic, and can often bring to surface issues that students either have not yet dealt with, or are still working through (sexual assault, bullying, gender nonconformity, etc.). This is why working with the school mental health professionals is crucial. Working together allows students to receive support on every end.
In an atmosphere where LGBTQ bullying is rampant and adolescent suicides are becoming more frequent than they are not, it is vital we provide these students especially with all the support. Mental health professionals and educators can work together and aide students through navigating the incredibly difficult period of adolescence, and beyond. My experience this last year has helped me realize how important this partnership can be, both for the school environment and more importantly, for the students we work with.