The school year is coming to an end but several Capital Region schools are already planning ahead to include mental health counselors in their budgets next year.
“The level of bullying can be really emotionally abusive and violent. Some kids really are driven to depression. At times, there are thoughts of suicide and some act on those thoughts,” Phil Rainer, Chief Clinical Officer at Capital Counseling, said.
No one knows that better than Richard Taras.
“They’re living that life and I can’t even imagine the torment,” Taras said.
Just three years ago, his 13-year-old son Jacobe took his own life after being bullied in school.
“The kicking, the punching, and the books thrown in the shower.”
Now, Taras says he’s all for the push for mental health counselors in local schools, but wonders if kids will actually want to talk to these people.
“Kids don’t want to report what’s going on now. Because they think they’re going to be the rat or the tattletale or whatever and then they’re being ostracized by their peers.”
At Ballston Spa, mental health professionals have already been walking these hallways for years. The school says there’s no stigma about it because these clinicians are now just part of the community.
“I would say over the last 20 years I’ve definitely seen an uptick in mental health needs and students and families,” Laurel Logan-King, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Assessment and Pupil Services, said. “Students spend so much time, so many hours in their day at school, so having a proper support system around them is very vital
While Taras agrees that any attention to mental health issues in school is definitely a win.
“If the resource is available they could take advantage of it,” Taras said.
He says it’s not enough to just have a school employee or a clinician in the know. He feels schools should keep records of these incidents and keep parents in the loop.
“It has to be everybody involved – the administration, the teachers, and the parents.”
This open communication with parents is something that Ballston Spa and their on-campus clinicians have been working hard to maintain.
“It is definitely a family affair if you well. It’s a coordination between school, and parent and home and the mental health clinic,” Logan-King said.
Now, Taras and his wife have been working closely with local lawmakers to pass Jacobes Law, a bill that would require schools to report incidents of bullying, harassment and discrimination to parents. Hopefully, improve the mental health of students across the Capital Region.
“It’s too late for us but hopefully we can help someone else,” Taras said.