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According to a survey conducted on behalf of the California Endowment, Californians say mental health care and emergency preparedness are the best ways to prevent school violence. Mental Health is serious issue that has been swept under the rug for many years in California. Every 15.8 minutes we loose a life to suicide due to untreated mental illnesses.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in young adults ages 15-24, and it’s also the 11th leading cause in Americans overall. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, out of the 36.8 million residents in the United States, 1.8 million adults live with serious mental illnesses and about 422,000 children live with a serious mental health condition.Mental_Health_Awareness_by_TaNgLeD_n_ThOuGhT

When it comes to mental health the California Department of Education says that it provides strategies, resources, and training in psychological and mental health issues, including coping with tragedy, crisis intervention and prevention, school psychology and suicide prevention. However, California ranks rather poorly when it comes to providing a decent ratio of counselors to students in schools. The No Child Left Behind Act recommends one counselor for every 250 students, and the California Board of Education recommends one counselor per every 350 students. Still, most schools in the state average 1,600 to 2,000 students and 2-4 counselors.

“No trainings are provided for counselors by our school district,” says a high school counselor who would rather be left nameless. “And if we want trainings we have to provide it ourselves,” the counselor added.

“How many counselors are available at your high school, and what do you need as a counselor?” were some of the questions two high school counselors were asked. Their response was “There are two full-time counselors and one part time counselor at our high school,” said one counselor assisting students with last names beginning H thru R. “Professional development and with additional staff we would have the ability to have small case load and spend more times with each and every student”, the counselor also stated.

“I think some more updated technology would be a big help when it come to assisting and working with caseloads,” said the other counselor assisting students with the last names A thru G.

With the data collected from the survey, 96% of California voters support training school staff in emergency response, including 78% who strongly support it. While 50% support putting armed police officers in every school, 23% strongly support it and only 31% support allowing teachers trained in firearms to carry guns on school grounds, 16% strongly. Other safety measures were metal detectors and additional security cameras.

In response to this data one counselor said that they “think that metal detectors would pose more as a deterrent then as a preventive measure, for the students that would randomly forget things in their bags once you put drug sniffing dogs or metal detector in it becomes kind of like an ‘oh! I am not going to be as randomly forgetful about things like that.’ However I think that the hardcore student who thinks they have to carry a gun for safety is still going to carry and they will find a way around the detectors.”

Both of the counselors agreed that they would be safer with more training versus with a weapon. Hopefully the community can use this study’s data to spark a change, to help close that gap between schools, school districts and the California Department of Education to find the best ways to prevent school violence and promote mental health. We should strive to be a nation of proactivity rather then reactivity.

For more information about mental health and the survey that was conducted please check out the links below.

Data

Survey 

 The California Endowment