There are only about 75 elementary school counselors in the entire state of Minnesota. Although the recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250 to 1 (and the national average is 450 to 1), the ratio of Minnesota elementary students to counselors is appallingly high. According to MN 2020, that ratio is 5,647 to 1.
School counselors help elementary school kids deal with very serious problems such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders, but MN 2020 reports that a lot of the work is preventative as well.
The help elementary school students receive isn’t limited to the students with the most dramatic needs. [Elementary school counselor Lisa] Karch said she has seen a drastic increase in the number of students entering kindergarten and first grade without the social skills and manners to handle group settings.
According to Karch, many of the students at her school don’t know how to be respectful-to say please and thank you, for instance.
“Learning these things is not automatic and if they don’t learn them at home, then it comes down to the teacher and the school counselor to teach these things to students. Then you see students with more severe cases like sadness that leads to depression that leads to self-injury and talk of suicide and that no one cares about them. We teach them that it’s OK to be sad and how to deal with those feelings.”
Until recently, there was a perception that counseling isn’t needed until high school, but these kinds of issues obviously build upon each other, sometimes leading to more severe behavior. Kids who have trouble socializing slip through the cracks when a state only has 75 elementary counselors. This means that by the time they have access to counseling (most likely in high school), their problems will most likely have multiplied.
School counselors are essential to the mental health and well being of students in Minnesota. This problem must be corrected to ensure that kids in Minnesota receive the best access to counseling, and thus the best mental health care, possible.