DANBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — From paralyzing anxiety in the morning to a lack of sleep and caring for younger siblings while parents work from home, Connecticut’s largest teachers’ union is talking about issues that are often in the dark: anxiety, depression, and even suicide.
“Each kid comes with an invisible backpack,” Danbury Public School counselor Curtis Darragh IV said. “We never really know what goes on in these kids’ lives when they go home,”
Darragh said that right now, his caseload is 375 students, noting, “I am one person.”
“School counselors across the state are going home, we’re crying every day,” Darragh said. “We are stressed to the max.”
School counselors said the mental health crisis in schools has reached epidemic levels, from high school to kindergarten. Parents said they can’t get kids into referral services for several seasons, and educators are struggling to manage it all.
“It’s supposed to be brief therapy,” Sharon Veatch, President of the CT School Counselor Association, said. “What’s happening now is there’s no place to send the students so we’re starting to do even more therapeutic interventions.”
Connecticut Education Association is launching a social media campaign called “What You Don’t See.” They hope it will encourage lawmakers to invest in more counselors.
But what kind of interventions are needed, and how do you get there before kids reach crisis level?
“You can’t have one counselor for 1,000 students, so we really need to drive those ratios down,” CEA President Kate Dias said. “We need to look at: does every school building have access to the supports that they need?”
State Sen. Saud Andwar, (D – South Windsor) who is a co-chair of the senate’s children’s committee, has a bill that seeks to expand support services for kids. There are also efforts in the House to pass a bill to improve air quality in schools. CEA says that is another health concern.