“Comparison of Mental Health Resources in Chicago Public Schools and Suburban Schools: Policy Issues and Recommendations” – Iman Benchehida
Author: Iman Benchehida
Department: Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement, UIC
Advisor: Dr. Joseph Hoereth
Teens and adolescents are some of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to mental illness. Many adolescents between the ages of 13-18 suffer from illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. 1 in 5 young people have at least one mental, emotional, and behavioral disorder, including depression, and nearly 50% of children with a mental, emotional, and behavioral disorder also experience significant challenges with their social, mental, or emotional development. Children spend more time in school than any other institution, showing the major role schools play in children’s development and social interactions. The Chicago Public School system’s current policies on mental health lack long term support to ensure every child receives adequate mental health counseling. As an academic institution, Chicago Public Schools has a responsibility to help their students navigate through life stressors, and gain important emotional intelligence and coping skills. This study focuses on examining academic literature to gauge how Chicago Public Schools policies pertaining to therapists and counselors impact the mental health of Chicago adolescents in Chicago Public Schools compared to suburban youth in suburban Chicagoland public schools with alternative programs. The literature review revealed that suburban public schools in the Chicagoland area have more preventative policies and more mental health staff than Chicago Public Schools. This highlights the lack of support Chicago Public School students receive when dealing with mental health issues. With programs such as CATCH-IT, a preventative mental health online approach, increasing mental health staff in inner-city schools, and increasing funding and support for these programs, children in Chicago Public Schools will be able to receive adequate mental health support to ensure healthy growth into adulthood.
Keywords: mental health; adolescents; Chicago Public Schools, suburbs; preventative health