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Confronting Mental Health at School: A Success Story

Feb 25, 2020 | Blog

Anxiety. Guilt. School refusal. Physical sickness.

10-year-old Emily* felt as though her world was falling apart. Struggling with her parent’s divorce, Emily was referred to Family & Children’s Counseling Services, a program funded by United Way of Broome County. The Family & Children’s Counseling Services partners with schools and families to provide therapeutic intervention and support services in the school to families who might not otherwise be able to access services.

In the Summer of 2018, Emily’s parents made the decision to divorce for a variety of reasons, including her mother’s health and substance abuse disorder. Through this, Emily developed severe anxiety, manifesting in physical symptoms, such as stomach aches and headaches. She also struggled with discussing her emotions, her changing family structure, and altering daily life, which in turn was impacting her academic grades and her relationships with her peers and friends.

Emily needed help in dealing with her feelings, her anxiety, and her struggles at home.

With the help of school-based individual counseling, Emily has been able to make a change for the better at home and school and has begun to feel happier and healthier. The health and well-being of children is the heart of the school-based individual counseling program – a partnership between Family & Children’s Counseling Services, Broome County Mental Health Department, school districts, and United Way of Broome County.

“By bringing services and resources to children in their own natural school environment, we are better able to support kids and families,” states Kurtis Ellison, School-Based Mental Health Counselor with Family & Children’s Counseling Services. “The program serves as a connecting link between schools, teachers, families, and students. At several schools across Broome County, a counselor is onsite to support the mental health of children in our community.”

Easing Anxiety and Creating Happy Moments 

Emily has been with the program for over a year and a half and has made significant progress and achievements. Ever since beginning counseling services, Emily has been able to self-manage her anxiety, realize her parent’s divorce is not her fault and has improved her grades considerably. Recently, Emily has been recruited to participate in the annual high school play, alongside her older sibling. Emily enjoys school again and has a great group of friends.

“Emily is a great pleasure to work with – she always has a smile on her face these days, and always brightens my day. The communication and participation from Emily have helped her tremendously and she is now emotionally supporting her younger sibling struggling from their parent’s divorce – I’m proud of her,” shares Ellison. “Emily is doing great.”

Emily is a success story, not just because she overcame her personal obstacles, but because she exemplifies that mental health counseling can tremendously improve quality of life. Emily shows us not only the need for school-based mental health services but how paying attention and advocating for these services is a must in our community.

To support students like Emily, donate to United Way of Broome County’s Annual Community Campaign.

*The child’s name has been changed to protect identity and confidentiality

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