The PATHWAYS Program
Mental Health Matters: Trauma and Mental Illness among Youth
The 2000 Report of the Surgeon's General Conference on Children's Mental Health underscored the crisis faced by our nation in meeting the mental health needs of children and adolescents. According to the Report,
- About 1 in 5 young people has a current mental disorder.
- 1 in 10 suffers from a severe mental illness.
- 1 in 8 has a co-occurring substance use or abuse.
- Anxiety, mood, and disruptive disorders are the most commonly-diagnosed conditions among children and adolescents.
The Institute of Medicine (2009) indicated that:
- About 50% of students age 14 and older who drop out of high school have a mental disorder.
- Sixty-five percent of boys and 75% of girls in juvenile detention have at least one mental illness.
Despite these startling statistics, addressing the complex mental health needs of young people remains a major challenge across the country. About 79% of youth aged 6 to 17 with mental disorders do not receive appropriate care (Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Only 1 in 5 children with mental illness receives any care.
Black and Latino youth are at particular risk for experiencing traumatic life events and developing mental illness. They are also more likely to receive suspension and more punitive consequences for their behaviors, compared to white students (Children's Defense Fund, 2007). It is well documented that suspension is an ineffective form of disciplinary response to student behavioral problems (American Psychological Association, 2006) and can, in fact, reinforce unwanted behaviors for students who have limited supervision at home and are exposed to adverse environments.
Overuse of suspension, particularly with ethnic minority students and for minor infractions, does not increase school safety, but instead has deleterious effects on student academic outcomes. Chronic truancy and school suspensions are major risk indicators for ethnic minority students' high drop-out rate and failure to graduate. Yet, these youth are less likely to receive mental health services; less likely to remain in counseling; and more likely to receive inappropriate, inadequate, or fragmented mental health care (Department of Health and Human Services, 2000).
Purpose of the PATHWAYS Program:
The main objective of the PATHWAYS Program is to increase access for urban youth and families to comprehensive, culturally-sensitive, evidence-based, and trauma-informed mental health services that are aimed at:
- Reducing suspension and truancy rates,
- Enhancing school attendance and engagement,
- Increasing graduation rates, and
- Improving overall psychosocial well-being among urban students.
The program focuses on students who:
- Exhibit disruptive behaviors in the school environment, which place them at risk for suspension.
- Have engaged in offenses that have led to suspension.
- Are currently facing suspension.
- Are chronically truant.
- Are at high risk for dropping out or failing to graduate.
- Are coping with significant mental health challenges that may interfere with their academic performance.
Interventions are designed to teach positive behavior skills and strategies, and address the underlying causes of disruptive behaviors among urban students. Services offered include the following:
- School-Based Counseling Services
Family Engagement and Community Outreach
- Mental health screenings for commonly-occurring diagnoses (e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD)
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Coordination of home-based counseling services
- Referrals for outpatient counseling and psychopharmacological assessments
- Community-based workshops for caregivers on the mental health needs of children, adolescents, and families; and the promotion of educational and psychological well-being of urban youth
Practicum Training Opportunities for Graduate Students
- Workshops and group training for teachers, administrators, and other school personnel on trauma and mental illness, and their impact on youth's development and functioning.
The PATHWAYS Program is a collaborative initiative among the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, West Roxbury Education Complex (i.e., Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy), the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and the Haitian Mental Health Network.
For more information, please contact:
Gemima St. Louis, PhD
Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
Monica Roizner, ED
Director of Clinical Services
Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Institute of Medicine. (2009). Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2009/Preventing-Mental-Emotional-and-Behavioral-Disorders-Among-Young-People-Progress-and-Possibilities.aspx
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2000). Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon's General.