How Schools Can Harm the Mental Health of Children Even with the Best Intentions - Granite Grok

How Schools Can Harm the Mental Health of Children Even with the Best Intentions

Mental health anxiety depression Image by Josh Clifford from Pixabay

Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and even suicide are some of the most serious mental health issues school-aged children may face. It’s a problem that parents, community members, legislators, and school officials have been trying to deal with for a long time.

That is why so many school administrators address these issues within the school and even the classroom. But is this something the school should be addressing? What if what they are doing doesn’t help solve these problems? And worse, what if they are actually contributing to the mental health issues our children are dealing with?

As an education researcher, these are serious issues that I cannot avoid looking at. While I focus on academic achievement and parental rights, the mental health of children cannot be ignored. But I’m here to challenge you to think long and hard about saddling your local public schools with these issues as a mechanism to help students cope.

At this point you might be saying, I’m crazy–we can help children and their mental health issues within the public school system. But I’m telling you, that may not be the best way to help your kids.

Years ago, I began looking at the programs and surveys given to children in school. Some of the programs and surveys addressed important issues like drug and alcohol abuse.

Mental health, sexual topics, and other risky behavior data have been collected at the school level, then addressed through programs provided by vendors who sell these products to the school district. But again, is this the best way to reach children who are having to deal with some of these issues?

Here is a video from the TV show, 20/20 that was aired many years ago. You will learn how a school district decided to tackle the subject of death. You will learn how well-meaning adults believed that if they reached all children inside the classroom, they might be able to help some of these children avoid bigger issues.

As you can see, by focusing on death, the students began to think about death and dying. In one case, it almost led a student to commit suicide. That’s what happens when you delve into pseudo-psychiatry. These mental health issues must be addressed by educated and trained mental health professionals:



When you put an untrained teacher in front of children and focus on mental health, you can see how dangerous that can become.

There are more examples. The D.A.R.E. program which is supposed to curb drug and alcohol abuse has been criticized as a program that has the opposite impact on children. D.A.R.E. was aimed at 5th and 6th-grade students and introduced children to hard drugs. At first, studies began showing the D.A.R.E. program to be ineffective. 

But what happens if this kind of program actually makes children curious about using drugs and alcohol?  Some parents started reporting that it didn’t help, but instead, made their children curious about using drugs and alcohol.

In this video, you will see one reality TV star discuss how she learned about bulimia and the tools that helped her become a bulimic:


When school officials dabble in mental health, are not trained or educated in assessing or treating a child’s mental health, you can see that this can lead a child to danger.

New Hampshire currently has a law in place that requires notification and written consent when their children take a non-academic survey in school. Some of the questions on the surveys ask about these risky behaviors. For instance, one Bedford parent complained years ago that his 7th grade son just learned that sniffing glue can get him high. He was not happy that the school district, in their misguided way, taught his son how to get high by sniffing glue. Maybe most kids would not act in that way, but there is always a chance that some of them will. It was an invasive non-academic survey that was the culprit in that situation.

In Manchester, the drug program they were bringing into the school showed kids that if they go to the internet, they can learn how to make fentanyl. That wasn’t their intention, but that’s what it was teaching the kids. They thought that if you show the dangers of fentanyl, it will cause kids to never use it. But it also showed them where to go to get information on making the deadly drug.

This is not a prescription for keeping children in the dark. It’s only a warning that when you task the school district with these serious matters, versus educated and trained doctors, it can backfire.

We all want to address these problems so our children do not become victims of any addiction or mental health issues. But what if your local school is contributing to this problem? What if the discussions in the classroom, or the books they are assigning your children contribute to their depression, anxiety, eating disorders or addiction? No one ever talks about that.

With the introduction of Social and Emotional Learning, we have again, charged the local teacher and aides with assessing and treating a child’s mental health. Positive support for children is good, but you can see that if they cross over into the area of mental health, you are running a serious risk of having the opposite impact on vulnerable children.

Is there a way to still help children who truly need it? That’s where the community should come together to make sure that they have educated and trained professionals, like PhD level Child Psychiatrists available. While a teacher, counselor or a school psychologist may have some training, they do not have the level of education or clinical training to address these serious mental health issues.

You need to start the discussion in your own school district with administrators, teachers and school board members.
This is an important issue, but one that is better left highly educated and qualified mental health professionals outside the school system. If they are going to address any of this within the school, at the minimum, make sure it is a Phd Child Psychologist who is licensed and follows the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics.