An examination of educators’ perceptions of their students’ mental health needs and barriers to support services : a mixed methods study.
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Valdez, Elizabeth J. T., 1976-
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As national headlines inform us of increasing school violence, adolescent suicide, and other mental health issues, there is an obvious need to offer support to adolescents in their schools. This study was spurred by the researcher’s practice as a mental health clinician and school counselor working in a variety of public and private schools over the past 20 years. Through her experiences, the researcher has experienced the frustration of trying to support students in the school setting when teachers frequently do not release students during academic time for this type of support. The dichotomy between teachers’ referring students for support and the teacher’s hesitation to release a student from class for support begs the questions of what teachers understand about mental health and the reasons behind their decisions for frequently not releasing students to receive support. This explanatory sequential mixed methods study sought to understand what is the relationship between a teacher’s attitude towards mental health services and a teacher’s mental health literacy? Additionally, the researcher asked what influences a teacher’s decision to release students from academic instruction to access mental health services, and how do the results of the survey data (quantitative) and the interview data (qualitative) explain teacher decision-making regarding releasing students for mental health services during academic instruction. The researcher used thorough statistical analysis and careful thematic analysis to describe themes discovered from the qualitative interviews. This study has implications that challenge pre-service education programs, school districts, local, state, and federal governments, and educators to come together to create systemic change to ensure children and adolescents are receiving the support they need. Specifically, this study highlights where future professional development is needed for educators. With an increased understanding of the impact of mental health on academic success, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders, may see the importance of releasing students from academic class time to receive mental health support. This research links its findings to Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1986) and makes suggestions for future research.