The Oklahoma Commission on School Security says a plan to make our schools safer must include training for mental health.
The statistics from the state department of mental health will catch your attention. It says one in every five children in school is struggling with some type of mental health issue. Many times, it goes unnoticed, but experts say knowing how to provide the help kids need can prevent school violence.
Lawmakers will consider recommendations released this week from the Oklahoma Commission on School Security. That's the group formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy. It's calling for a pilot program in schools headed by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
"By providing mental health first aid and training, a national evidence-based program, we're going to save lives in Oklahoma," OKDMHSAS Commissioner Terri White said.
The training would be offered to teachers, administrators and staff, helping to recognize the risk factors and warnings of mental illness.
"So every one in five kids in the classroom who's trying to learn is sitting there with a brain health issue, most of whom don't have access to the services they need. Only about half of the youth who need access to services are able to get it," White said.
This year, kids in Oklahoma have seen guns brought to school, even suicides and experts say these tragedies can be prevented.
"Mental illness and addiction are diseases like any other disease, and they can be treated," White says, "Intervention and prevention work. It saves lives, and can avert years of heartache."
The program would be funded through the state. It's about 12 hours of training to become certified. All of this would be provided on a voluntary basis for each school district.
The recommendation will be written in a senate bill going before the legislature this session.