A rewarding elephant stands in front of a crowd.

Elephant in the Room – Rewarding Quality Care

It’s back-to-school season, and, I, like numerous other parents, am preoccupied with getting just the right classes or teacher assignments to help my kids’ chances of getting into a top university. My incoming sophomore is trying to get a waiver to take AP English on top of two other AP classes, and before we were able to meet with the teacher, shocking news came of her suicide. I ache for this teacher, her family, and the students at the school who are about the start school under this shadow. What would you do for the kids at my daughter’s school?

We are more stressed, lonelier, suicidal and hopeless than ever, and spiraling downward. This is snowballing into a dangerous global public health crisis that is increasingly costly and difficult to solve, and it won’t go away on its own.

Mental health issues affect people of all races, education levels, and income strata. Behavioral health is complex and contingent on environment, income, race, genetics, education, etc., but it is an absolute prerequisite to all other stability and success in life.  

Money has been thrown into social-emotional learning to have teachers—the positive adult influence already present in children’s lives—trained to act as frontline crisis intervention. The logic behind this logic is reasonable until you see how much educators already struggle with budget cuts, increased class sizes, and added administrative duties.  

Families have been struggling because there are many barriers to care—a major one being the shortage in the behavioral health workforce. Why is there a shortage of therapists, counselors, and other behavioral health professionals? It’s very stressful being surrounded by aggression, trauma, dysfunctions, and devastation yet compensated very little for the advanced degrees and continuing education required for licensure.   

Educators, social workers, counselors, psychologists, and others who choose the healing profession sacrificed their time and finances to help people.  Simply adding more tasks to an overburdened workforce will not lead to success. Many of the past and current policies and approaches to behavioral healthcare aren’t adequate. Industries and policymakers must work together and do what is necessary to deliver effective care.

We can’t just focus on a race to the bottom—i.e., how do we make support as cheap as possible. Instead, there needs to be long-term consideration for a healthy, resilient behavioral health ecosystem. People must defend their right to behavioral health because it is vital to their overall health and life outcome. Both societies and funders need to recognize services are worth paying for. 

How do we get there and what can you do?  

Clinicians:  Comment or get in touch with us.   There’s a big learning curve to the business.  The general public’s common perception of a therapist is someone who sits on a couch just listening to people talk about their lives and easily makes $150/hr. I want to help make business people and policymakers understand the reality. 

Educators: Tell me the challenges your students, colleagues, and schools are facing and why you cannot double as a behavior support staff too.

All other human beings: Your input and support are welcomed. Because if you’re human, you’ve got mental health to maintain 🙂

Caitlyn Wang Avatar

Responses to “Elephant in the Room – Rewarding Quality Care”

  1. Caitlin Marcus Avatar
    Caitlin Marcus

    One thing that’s important to note is that some therapies cannot be delivered just one or two times a week for an hour – behavioral therapy for autistic children can take 10, 15, 20, 30 hours a week, and the people who provide that therapy on the front line are not getting paid like I was in their shoes in 2008. Funding keeps drying up and it’s difficult to retain staff when their job demands are so high and they can’t always get the hours they need. This leads to many families receiving only partial hours or going without service entirely for weeks, months at a time sometimes depending on the health of the therapy agency. As a whole we are severely understaffed and face unique problems in service delivery. And I can definitely say, even as a private behavior analyst with 15 years of experience, I have never made anything CLOSE to $150 an hour. I teach swimming lessons at a higher hourly rate than my actual pay as a BCBA working with clients directly.

  2. Lisa Hildreth Avatar
    Lisa Hildreth

    As a licensed clinician who works at a K-8 combo elementary/middle school, I can tell you that I definitely don’t charge $150 an hour and sit and listen to people on a couch. It is backbreaking work seeing kids both in my school office and pushing into the classroom to assist with behaviors, anxiety…you name it.

    If only all schools had the funding for this. I work on a military base and it is for service member’s dependents only. Every single school out there needs so much more to assist these kids and teachers with social/emotional issues.

  3. Caitlin Marcus Avatar
    Caitlin Marcus

    I know a lot of people think that teachers have a pretty cushy job in terms of the schedule and school holidays/summer…and they really don’t. Imagine spending all day keeping 30 students engaged, managing disruptions, completely ignoring the desperate urge to take a simple bathroom break for hours on end. They are not paid for summers. They are to collaborate with numerous other professions and keep up with changing state standards. They spend breaks recovering from a relentless schedule in which they are discouraged from taking any time off for 9 months of the year. They work with injuries, they stay at school until 5 or 6 finishing up. They often work an additional job to supplement, especially if there is no dual income.

    Teachers – even the ones we don’t like very much – bust their asses and their mental health should be top priority. I don’t teach but having worked in schools for many years…there’s a twinge of fear in me every time I see the special locks on every door in case of an active shooter. Shelter in place drills – “everybody hide and stay silent” – are terrifying when you consider what they’re preparing for. The veil of safety has been lifted from the places our kids spend the most time. It is palpable and everyone moves on anyway.

    None of this is okay. I’m so sad for this teacher and her suffering and the ripple effects this will have for years to come. What a horrible turn of events.

  4. Clarissa Shen Avatar
    Clarissa Shen

    Mhm, many people tend to neglect the health of teachers. Since they are the ones who are expected to set an example, many people often look at how they affect their students instead of what is affecting them.

    Teachers can really have it hard, with annoying kids and low pay.

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