Opinion: Schools must amp up their role in the mental health support of students

March brought tragic news of the suicides of two teens who had survived the horrific mass shooting that took place in February 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

The two students were reported dead just six days apart. The first student to die by suicide was Sydney Aiello, who had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivors guilt following the Parkland shooting. Less than a week later, another survivor — whose name has not been released — took their life, sending the Parkland community back into grief.

Local officials met to discuss policies and strategies to assist children and families in the wake of the suicides. They identified locations for therapeutic services and informed citizens how to reach them. This is a similar pattern to how the district and school responded to the 2018 shooting.

After the shooting, the schools brought in counselors and therapy dogs for Stoneman Douglas students. However, this wasn’t enough support and many teachers and students sought additional help outside of the school following the tragedy. Both times tragedy struck the response was reactive, but it seems there is a serious lack of proactive action on the part of school districts when dealing with mental health.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the National Institute of Mental Health report, 1 in 5 U.S. children and adolescents have some form of mental health issue and 70 percent of children with mental health problems do not receive care. Suicide rates have risen and it is now the leading cause of death for youth ages 15–24.

This highlights how great the need is across the U.S. for better access to mental health support and intervention. If schools were given more funding, they could provide more rigorous counseling services with better staff and resources readily available for students, families, staff and faculty alike.

Students should have easy access to quality mental health resources at school, especially considering the rise in school-based mass shootings in recent years. By providing students counseling and support, perhaps schools can begin to prevent tragedies like mass shootings or suicides from ever striking in the first place.

It is important to advocate for stricter safety regulations, as well as mental health awareness and support. The impact of trauma is a lesson that all school districts and policy makers should learn from, ass it is up to them to secure these resources. But in the end, it is up to all of us to educate and advocate about mental health.

UWT’s Student Counseling Center — located in MAT 354 — offers free individual, couple and group counseling to currently enrolled UWT students and consultation to faculty and staff. The Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For help outside of their office hours, call the CRISIS LINE: 1-800-576-7764. To make an appointment with the Student Counseling Center, email uwtscc@uw.edu or stop by the office.


If you or anyone you know have suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  

Alyssa Tatro

Alyssa majors in urban studies and community development. She is interested in and concerned about issues in Tacoma that impact the community. She is obsessed with all things chocolate and piggies.