The Need for Mental Health Counselors in Adventist Schools


(Spectrumbot) #1

The Seventh-day Adventist educational system is the second largest in the world, dwarfed only by the Roman Catholic school system. As of June 2018, there are 5,915 primary schools with over 1.2 million students enrolled; there are 2,435 secondary schools worldwide with an enrollment of over 603,000 students. The North American Division (NAD) Office of Education alone coordinates with 1,049 schools consisting of 65,000 students in the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda. These are incredible numbers, and while we are blessed to be able to teach so many children about Christ in the educational system, the General Conference employs no mental health professionals in any of its schools.

In 2012, the CDC reported that one in seven U.S. children ages two to eight had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Data also shows us that suicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Millions of children live with depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome, and countless other mental health issues. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that an “estimated 49.5% [of adolescents aged 13 to 18]” had a diagnosable mental disorder. All of these facts and statistics show that the Seventh-day Adventist school system has a duty to employ and place mental health professionals in its school systems for the sake of its children.

As the data shows, one in seven children under the age of eight have a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, which means that more likely than not, over 171,000 children in our own system suffer from some disorder that may not be receiving the treatment that it could and should be. In the NAD alone, this means there are just under 10,000 students suffering in silence. My focus is primarily on primary and secondary schools as our universities more often than not do have a counseling center of some sort that students are able to go to if need be.

As John Gavin, chair of the Social Work Program at Washington Adventist University said, “Adventist psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians know first-hand the living nightmare that characterizes the existence of those experiencing depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, grief, addiction and other problems. They are the ones who bring hope and healing to those experiencing emotional distress.” Through advancements in research, technology, and data analysis, we are able to see more clearly the growing need for mental health services within our own institutions.

Among the options we have, one would be similar to the method in which the Adventist school system recruits its teachers, through its universities. Many Seventh-day Adventist universities have programs for students to become teachers, as well as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). An education major at an Adventist university must complete a set amount of hours student teaching. In a similar fashion, aspiring mental health professions must complete a practicum, internship, and 3,000 hours of supervised counseling. If the Adventist system incorporated counselors and therapists into its schools, then in the same way that education majors essentially intern at their future place of work, mental health professionals could do the same.

Many of the students who attend Seventh-day Adventist schools are sent there as a way for their children to see Jesus. A good number of these children are only able to attend these schools through funding of their local church or sponsors who believe in them. With this in mind, counseling and therapy are currently more accessible to middle and upper-class individuals, either through their healthcare plan or out of pocket. The same cannot be said for families who are struggling to put their children through Adventist education. If counselors were integrated into these schools they’d be able to help these children and young adults in ways they may never be able to get otherwise.

I know this isn’t an easy idea, or something that can be implemented overnight. It’s probably a logistical nightmare, but we don’t serve Christ because it’s easy, we do it because it’s the right thing to do.

While some may wish to ignore what science and data has to show us, even the most devout Adventist must remember Ellen White’s words, “God is the author of science. Scientific research opens to the mind vast fields of thought and information, enabling us to see God in His created works.” If we ignore the fruition of the scientific tools we’ve been blessed with, and also ignore the direction in which that information points us, are we truly stewards of God’s teachings?

Hayden Scott is pursuing his Masters in Mental Health Counseling. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife, two dogs, cat, and soon to be baby girl.

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9241

(Jose Colon) #2

A good medical insurance would be the solution to this problem.


(Elmer Cupino) #3

Keep on dreaming…

I’m a child and adolescent psychiatrist and active in church. I once served as chairman for our local church school board. Both my children went through sda schools and I have been shown a little of its politics. The biggest problem in our church is its massive denial that others might know better than us and all troubles can be resolved by prayers. It has boggled my mind how our schools will accept students needing special services and then kicking them out mid school year for being disruptive. I once got a school district to offer psychological services (do you know how difficult that is?) for students needing mental health services in our school only to be told by the administrators “next thing they’ll be installing vending machines for condoms.”

I gave up!


(Cfowler) #4

I saw the same thing, elmer. Not regarding psychologists, but having specialists come to the school to help kids with reading/dyslexia issues. They would have come to the school for free, it was a service that was provided by the school system, even to private schools. But, a great big NO was the answer to that offer! So much for doing what was best for the kids.

Amen to that! This is true in so many areas.


(Hayden Scott) #5

I’m sorry you had such a difficult time with the integration of these services. I think one of the biggest turnoff’s is that psychology was “founded by atheists,” as many historic members of the church have told me, even though therapy and counseling have been developed to specifically be adapted to work under anyone’s belief system, be it atheist, Christian, Jewish, or any of them. I’m seeing immense acceptance among the new generation of Adventist university students, regardless of what administrations or historic members say.

One day, I believe all of this fighting over whether or not to integrate the mind into whole person education will be looked back with embarrassment. Research is showing us more and more the need for LPC’s for not just children, but for almost anyone in at least some capacity. And as I quote in the article,

While some may wish to ignore what science and data has to show us, even the most devout Adventist must remember Ellen White’s words, “God is the author of science. Scientific research opens to the mind vast fields of thought and information, enabling us to see God in His created works.” If we ignore the fruition of the scientific tools we’ve been blessed with, and also ignore the direction in which that information points us, are we truly stewards of God’s teachings?

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do in this area! It is much appreciated, if not by the admin or members, then at the very least by the chidlren who need these services.


(Hayden Scott) #6

Many of the families are unable to afford insurance, as they are already needing sponsorship through their local church. The purpose of insurance is so the therapist gets paid for services. If the larger Adventist schools could employ therapists full-time, there would be no need for insurance; it also starts getting tricky as to whether or not this therapist or that therapist accepts this insurance or that insurance.


(George Tichy) #7

Hmmmm…, are you sure?.. LOL


(Thomas J Zwemer) #8

aAugusta once had a husband and wife team as Church School teachers… One fall the bought a bushel of apples. They peel and cored the entire basket. They placed the cut apples in their dryer and turn it on in order to get quick dried apples for the winter. They had to buy a new dryer.


(Andreas Bochmann) #9

How encouraging, to teach youth responsible behaviour! Or did I misunderstand something here? :wink:

Mindsets differ tremendously from culture to culture, but whereas mental health is expensive, I am not sure it would be a priority within the SDA school system.
At Newbold College (and some other tertiary SDA educational institutions) Counseling services are being offered. The author of this article - welcome to SPECTRUM - probably would suggest: too late. I agree.


(Cfowler) #10

No it would not. To have psychologists on board would be an admission that there are problems in “the remnant”. It’s always best to sweep things under the carpet and ignore unpleasant truths. :anguished:


(Jose Colon) #11

Advent is health system are too expensive?


(Jose Colon) #12

We have to redesign our scholar system. If we have a school, near should be a Adventist hospital with a good mental health system. If we want a good system we could give good services.


(Jose Colon) #13

Another alternative: create a new curriculum with more courses on mental health (not in all universities) for school chaplains with a good business model (for school and the university) It’s world emergency!!!


(Jose Colon) #14

I paid for my son school and he has an insurance. And y have my own family insurance. It’s about priorities!


(Jose Colon) #15


(Kim Green) #16

Yes…to all. There is also an issue with the local SDA schools being used for children who have failed in other venues. Additionally, there are those children who get moved from school to school with the parents hoping/praying that a new school will “solve the problem”. So many parents don’t want to face the fact that their children have emotional/psychological issues and are upset when the children don’t do well socially and/or educationally. I heard this the one year that I worked in an SDA elementary school over and over again.


(Cfowler) #17

Or, face the fact that perhaps they, or the system they are functioning in, is part of the problem.

Hubs was a teacher, principle, ed supt. Seen it all, from the parents/students/teachers and up!


(Kim Green) #18

Especially that they were a part of the problem. :smiley:


#19

I’ve read a lot of things on Spectrum. Uplifting things, concerning things, insightful things.

These just might be the most depressing things I’ve read on Spectrum.


(Yvonne Stratton) #20

“As of June 2018, there are 5,915 primary schools with over 1.2 million students enrolled; there are 2,435 secondary schools worldwide with an enrollment of over 603,000 students. The North American Division (NAD) Office of Education alone coordinates with 1,049 schools consisting of 65,000 students in the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda. These are incredible numbers, and while we are blessed to be able to teach so many children about Christ in the educational system, the General Conference employs no mental health professionals in any of its schools.”

Both the grade school and academy that my children went to employee appropriately credentialed mental health counselors. As far as I know all of our NAD colleges/universities have a full counseling department; None (except for Andrews and Loma Linda) would be employed by the General Conference but by the local conference or union. I do agree that throughout the history of our school system here in the NAD, counselling, if it is there, was a hard fought battle. Many states provide these types of services to all schools (public or private) as part of tax dollars.