LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lisa Dansby Williams loves connecting students in need with mental health resources.
"It's just been hard for many of the students and their families to navigate some of the resulting issues of the pandemic, whether that be domestic violence within the family, homelessness, maybe mom, dad lost a job," she said.
As the need rises, services are stretched thin.
"We do have a limited pool of mental health professionals to employ. Some of the main issues are that they are moving to different platforms to provide services. Some have been burnt out themselves by the pandemic and some of the increase of need for services and so that's been a major issue as well," Dansby said.
The national recommendation for school counselors is 1 for every 250 students. According to the National Association of School Counselors, only 17.8% of school districts met that requirement. Only 4.2% of urban school districts met it, according to pre-pandemic numbers.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of students, families, and staff, and even administrators that are referring students and families to us," said Alma Lopez, who is a school counselor at a California middle school.
"It's been a challenge, you know, we're putting in some full days and then some and so definitely the need to have more mental health professionals in the school building is an essential need right now," she said.
What's been helping, Lopez said, is the waning stigma around mental health and the increased awareness from lawmakers. However, she believes more needs to be done, including help for counselors.
"More people need to actually understand the role of the school counselor and of mental health professionals right in the school building," she said.
For mental health workers, no matter what assistance comes, they're going to show up for the students and be their much-needed rock, even if everything is so uncertain
"Right now there's a greater need to help family, so if I can make it happen, that's what I try to do," Williams said.