This Program Is Responding to the Mental Health Crisis by Putting Therapists In Schools
Ellie Mental Health now has 15 therapists in more than a dozen schools.
Data from the American Medical Association found that depression and anxiety doubled among young people during the pandemic. Ellie Mental Health, a program that started in 2015, collaborates with organizations, businesses, and communities to provide mental health, emotional health, and general wellness services. "As a culture, we’re collectively realizing the significance of mental health across all facets of life as a rapidly increasing number of people are seeking out mental health resources. But at Ellie Mental Health, we believe that the therapy office is far from the only place to provide our communities with the education, resources, and support they need to best navigate life’s many challenges," reads a statement from their website.
Therapist Sara Livingston-Burke has worked at Ellie Mental Health for years and "sees the trauma firsthand." Equipped to use many tools to treat it, she says humor is one way she connects to the kids. "We’re just very authentic and creative and use a lot of humor in our therapy," said Livingston-Burke. "That has helped, really helped, work with kids."
The program started with just three therapists and now there are 15, including Emily Weidenbacher, who, along with her colleagues, are all readily available to support students throughout the day. Weidenbacher says she recommends her students take breaks and try different breathing techniques, all while creating a comfortable space for her clients. "I would say there's a high response rate to therapy," said Weidenbacher. "I'm noticing a lot of students in the schools that I see are advocating for themselves."
The agency has about 200 therapists but the demand is so great, it's looking for more. However, as the need increases, the number of people pursuing the career is going down, partly due to how emotionally taxing it can be. "We are definitely seeing a rise in the need for therapists within schools, to the point where we have school districts reach out to us and go, 'Please, please, can you come into our schools?'" said Livingston-Burke. Weidenbacher says she has a strict self-care system and suggests other therapists do as well, including finding hobbies not related to mental health in order to better care for the kids.
"I think the more we can involve ourselves in the schools and the more work with do with our students, the more it’s going to become a higher success rate for a lot of them struggling with mental health," said Weidenbacher.
See if Ellie Mental Health is in your area to bring mental health resources to your school here!