Teachers say more mental health counselors needed in SC schools

Teachers say more mental health counselors needed in SC schools

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Next week, teachers will be rallying at the State House to push for changes in the classroom.

Steve Nuzum is a high school teacher at the Richland School District Two. He’ll join fellow teachers in advocating for better pay, smaller class sizes and for more mental health counselors in South Carolina schools.

“Unfortunately we’ve had several students who have successfully completed suicide,” he said. Nuzum has been teaching for about 13 years. He said it seems like his students are dealing with a lot of anxiety.

“Every year it feels like I have a few more panic attacks or kids who have extreme anxiety or depression,” Nuzum said.

Right now, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health says there are 390 mental health professionals in 725 schools.

These counselors provide individual therapy, crisis intervention and can connect students to more resources in their community. Margaret Meriwether, SCDMH’s director of School Mental Health Programs, said, “By having access to comprehensive mental health services in schools, we are helping to decrease the stigma in getting mental health treatment.”

Their goal is to have counselors available in every single school by 2022. They say they’re on track to accomplish that.

Nuzum says the counselors in every school will help tremendously and would love to see it happen sooner. He believes the culture in schools need to change as well. The focus on testing and grades is putting a lot of pressure on students. “I think it’s all connected. It’s not a coincidence kids are more stressed and we’re more stressed and we have less capacity to deal with them.”

Senators added a proposal to their budget plans that would set aside up to $2 million to help hire counselors.

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