Every May, our nation observes Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness about mental health and help reduce the stigma associated with this global issue. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. Unfortunately, suicide rates have climbed following a two-year decline, and it is happening more often in younger minorities, according to a CDC report released earlier this year.
Mental health is crucial to our overall well-being, physical health and plays a significant role in our lives and relationships. Self-care and healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, mindfulness, and maintaining a support network, need to be promoted and practiced. It is also imperative that we ensure mental health services and resources, such as therapy and counseling, are accessible to all who need it. Working together, we can create a more compassionate society that encourages open dialogue, understanding and empathy.
In the United States (U.S), 1 in 6 children aged 2–8 years have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Moreover, mental health support has long been an under-invested part of the U.S. education system. A pre-pandemic study found that the student to counselor ratio was almost 500/1. This means that students who would benefit from access to a mental health professional or social worker instead most likely ended up caught in a punitive cycle of discipline.
This is especially true for black and brown families, who are more likely to experience mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, but less likely to seek help. This can be linked to the lack of access to culturally responsive healthcare. Thankfully, attention to this issue has been heightened and funding for mental health in schools has increased as well. With this, however, comes a responsibility to better support these students and their families, informing them of the resources available.
Now more than ever, we need to build systems that don’t assume negative intent or disinterest, and instead, provide support for the whole child, starting with their mental health and well-being.
AllHere’s AI-powered intuitive chatbot provides a unique opportunity to offer unbiased mental health outreach and support for communities that historically experience prejudice in our healthcare system, particularly for the parents of minority students who often don’t want to speak directly to school administrators about mental health issues.
The AllHere chatbot offers a non-confrontational, non-judgmental way for families to ask for support that could help grow the number of children getting the help they need. Messages about mindfulness or resources that schools have available to deal with stress and other mental health challenges are just some of the examples of what the AllHere chatbot can share regularly with all families.
It also provides free, 24/7 support via text message regarding all topics such as school, attendance, enrollment, anxiety, and all the challenges in between. The goal of each conversation is to get the right family and student, the right support, at the right time*.
Sometimes that means being a coach and an advocate; that affirming voice; providing a family or a student with information, personalized support, answers to questions, or a resource or referral for help; and sometimes it just means being there and listening in the case of some mental health challenges, to assess what support mechanism that student may benefit from. A conversation usually lasts anywhere from 15-45 minutes, and we have found that districts using a chatbot to support health and wellness find that families are more willing to ask for support.
With today’s modern technology, there are many additional resources available for mental health and wellness. AI, particularly chatbots, have reshaped the way we can communicate and reach students and families. Let’s take advantage of these advances to better support our children’s overall well-being.
To learn more about how AllHere can offer school districts an additional tool to proactively surface mental health issues to school staff and empathetically guide parents to take the next best step for their child, visit https://www.allhere.com/.
*AllHere is not a mental health service or licensed provider. However, it can complement and support mental health resources in a proactive manner.