A 21st Century Journalism Project

Different programs, similar solutions

In Organizations on April 9, 2012 at 11:41 pm

By: Enid Lindenberg

Mental health practices range far and wide throughout the United States, whether as a part of a college, school district or even corrections facility. People who suffer from mental health problems are not as widely in the minority as thought in the past and although the issue isn’t broadcasted daily, it is noticed and there are active measures being taken.

Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit

Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit

At the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit #5, Nancy Maloney works as an autistic support teacher, teaching children ages 5-9 (kindergarten through 2nd grade) who cannot participate in the regular education setting.

“I am expected to teach these students math, reading, social skills, social studies, and science. I also implement programs that help each student achieve the goals that are on their Individualized Education Plan.”

While Maloney works mainly with autistic children, a lot of them also suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or general anxiety. “When they have anxiety, they tend to refuse by yelling or just not complying…If it’s their OCD, it interferes with teachable moments. One student has to have his desk an exact way and I am working with him on transitioning to a preferred activity to help him stop the OCD behavior.”

While Maloney only works with students through the 2nd grade level it doesn’t mean these children’s problems stop. Job coaches and agencies are used as the population of student’s age and enter high school, to help them with employment options. Some are able to do the job independently after using a job coach for a little while, while others need a job coach all the time during employment.

The Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit provides cost-effective programs and services for the 17 public school districts and nonpublic schools in Crawford, Erie and Warren counties. Maloney teaches in the city of Erie, at a school where low socioeconomic status is 90% of the population.

The effect of this on the patients Maloney sees and interacts with is large, ranging from bullying, stealing, low self-esteem, poor participation in school activities and poor conduct at school and in the community.

She feels as though there should be more options for these children, especially as they age. “There needs to be more employment options for young adults with these disabilities. It’s a shame that funding for them ends when they are 21. This age seems too young to me when we want them to enter the workforce after 21, but we don’t continue to help them with services so they can be successful young working adults.

Alfred State College Logo

Alfred State College

While these are the effects on children, when they reach the college level there can be some help too as described by Jeanine S Rose, who is a mental health counselor at Alfred State College, which is a State University of New York.

“I encounter people who suffer from depression, OCD, anxiety or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) daily. The symptoms range in severity from person to person and day to day… Mental illness in a college setting is difficult because of the close quarters and lack of privacy due to communal living. Stress of academics and social situations can make symptoms worse.”

Sufferers at this level are mostly taking classes and participating in social situations, as opposed to working jobs. In severe cases of mental health, attendance becomes an issue for some people. Alfred’s clients generally come in weekly and are able to meet throughout their entire college career.

This help is available for those who suffer from mental health from youth until they finish college, if they choose to pursue that route. There is the chance when they leave school, whatever level it is, they will have successfully picked up the tools and techniques necessary to deal with the conditions they suffer from.

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