To the Editor,
Parents Need Government Help for Student Mental Health: That is Why I am Voting for Rachel Khanna this November
Last week, we learned the disturbing news that aggressive behavioral problems and threats of suicide and self harm among Greenwich public school students had increased by 59% in a year. (Greenwich Time, May 21, 2022) In this, Greenwich is not alone. During the pandemic, many mental health professionals could not handle the volume of new patients, and the number of children waiting for inpatient psychiatric beds more than doubled in CT. Similar trends have been reported nationwide by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
COVID took a heavy toll on students. Extensive lockdowns, lack of social interaction, and hours spent before computers contributed to the mental health crisis we are seeing among students. The problem has gotten so bad that Greenwich police have been forced to step in. “I’ve never seen such a volume, and at such a young age, of suicidal threats,” said Detective Sgt. Brent Reeves in the above article.
Fortunately, our state legislature took action, passing two bills using federal recovery act money to address the youth mental health crisis. The measures set aside grant money to expand services on school-based health centers; help BOE’s to hire and retain social workers, nurses and counselors; study the impact of social media and mobile phone usage on students; and expand access to mobile crisis centers.
Unfortunately, our State Representative Kimberly Fiorello voted against both of bills addressing the youth mental health crisis. She took the floor to explain her vote against SB1 as follows, “The proponent said that this will help parents with the ease of caring for their children. I just feel that many parents would agree there’s not a lot of ease in caring for children. Raising children is a rigorous life journey. I’m wary when we create government programs to ease the burden for parents.”
You could have blown me over with a feather. Our government representative does not think that government should be easing the burden for parents even in the aftermath of a pandemic. Instead, that problem is now being handled by Greenwich police. This parent thinks the government has a very important role to play in protecting children from self-harm or aggressive behavior in schools. I will be voting for Rachel Khanna for State Representative this November, a parent of GPS students, and an advocate for helping both parents and students.