The COVID-19 global pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis and our children are at the forefront of that crisis. Students walk into schools daily carrying the burdens of poverty and bearing the weight of psychological issues that continue to go unnoticed. Because mental health has not been prioritized thus far, our schools are inundated with needs they cannot meet. The lack of resources, personnel and services causes our students to suffer and our teachers are required to teach and step into the roles of counselor and social worker on most days.  

School districts, school administration, teachers and parents feel a sense of urgency to find community partners to help increase mental health services in our schools. Charleston Hope is eager to be one of those partners and create a sustainable school-based mental health program for local Title I schools. (Title I schools benefit from federal aid to help schools with large numbers of low-income students.)

Kerr

Living in a poor or low-income household has been linked to poor health and increased risk for mental health problems in children and adults that can persist across the life span. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Children less than 18 years old are disproportionately affected by poverty, making up 33% of all people in poverty. Despite their high need for mental health services, children and families living in poverty are least likely to be connected with high-quality mental health care.”

Many people living in poverty face obstacles, such as a lack of insurance or transportation, that prevent them from accessing mental health services.. The daily stressors and burdens of living in poverty worsen the effects of these obstacles, which can hinder parents from getting their children the treatment they need.

Studies show that 80% of students who need mental health services do not receive them because existing mental health services are inadequate or the barriers of poverty limit accessibility. Of the students who receive assistance, 70-80% of youths receive their mental health services in school, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Studies show that students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based mental health services than community mental health services.

At Charleston Hope, we believe children who have experienced trauma or need mental health support deserve access to high-quality mental health services despite their socioeconomic status or zip code. 

Charleston Hope is actively working to minimize and eliminate the obstacles to receiving quality mental health care.

As part of a three-tiered mental health initiative, our new Mental Health Afterschool Program will include creating an after-school mental health services model that includes cognitive and body-based therapy, contracting licensed professional counselors and social workers to conduct cognitive sessions, implementing a multi-purpose needs assessment tool to track student growth and services, providing school-wide trauma-informed training and fundraising efforts to pay for this initiative. 

Eight Charleston Hope Heroes and influencers in the community are raising money for Charleston Hope, including a news anchor, teachers at various Charleston schools, fitness influencers and students in our Step-In Girls Empowerment program. They have each set a goal to raise a certain amount of money by May 24 to raise $20,000 for Charleston Hope. 

With $20,000, we will be able to support our programs, including our new Mental Health After School Program launching in the fall of 2022. You can contribute to our fundraiser by donating here.

Emily Kerr is founder and CEO of Charleston Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing school culture and climate in Charleston’s high-poverty, Title I schools. Its work provides a holistic support system that helps alleviate the burdens of poverty so every student and teacher can thrive. To learn more, visit www.charlestonhope.com.