School-Based Mental Wellness Centers and Health Equity

For this blog post, I decided to explore the effect of school-based wellness centers on high school students and discuss how and why they should be implemented in low-income communities if they have not been already.


According to a journal article published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics by Stacy Hodgkinson (PhD) and her team, “...living in a poor or low-income household has been linked to poor health and increased risk for mental health problems in both children and adults that can persist across the life span. Despite their high need for mental health services, children and families living in poverty are least likely to be connected with high-quality mental health care” (Hodgkinson et. al, 2017). Compared to those living in middle class or high-income communities, students living in low-income communities are inherently disadvantaged due to a lack of mental health resources. This could result in them developing major psychological issues later on in their lives such as generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder (MDD). Furthermore, a research paper written by Lee Knifton and Greig Inglis found that “...stigma is a fundamental cause of health inequalities,26 and international evidence has demonstrated that poverty stigma is associated with poor mental health among low-income groups” (Knifton & Inglis, 2020). Though students in low-income communities are more prone to developing mental health related issues as they develop, they may not choose to seek out care due to its lack of affordability, accessibility, and the overall stigma attached to it.


While these individuals are placed at a significant disadvantage, school-based wellness centers can serve as an adequate solution to this. Saratoga High School, a public school located in Bay Area, California, describes their wellness center as a place where students can take a short break during class, connect with their strengths, and receive mental health support (Saratoga High, n.d.). A wellness center located within the high school an individual attends could eliminate the issues of accessibility and affordability of mental health resources as they would be available on-demand for all students. Additionally, the stigma surrounding receiving mental health help among lower-income students could be eliminated, as if students see their peers utilizing the wellness centers services, they may feel compelled to utilize it themselves.


In all, wellness centers should be implemented in lower-income high schools if they have not already. Teenage mental health is an incredibly important issue which should not be ignored, and the implementation of wellness centers can help nullify this issue to some extent.



References

Hodgkinson, S., Godoy, L., Beers, L. S., & Lewin, A. (2017). Improving Mental Health Access for Low-Income Children and Families in the Primary Care Setting. Pediatrics, 139(1), e20151175. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-1175

Knifton, L., & Inglis, G. (2020). Poverty and mental health: policy, practice and research implications. BJPsych bulletin, 44(5), 193–196. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjb.2020.78

Wellness center. Wellness Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.saratogahigh.org/student_life/wellness_center#:~:text=The%20Wellness%20Center%20is%20a,%2D%20receive%20mental%20health%20support