Perhaps the single most important story in any recent Star was the one that appeared on the front page of last Thursday’s edition about the desperate need for adequate mental health services for school-age children.
Think about what that means for a moment. What pediatricians, teachers, school nurses, administrators, and others are saying is that there are more kids at risk here than there are practitioners able to help them. This must change — and fast.
School officials here would be the first to admit that there is a crisis under way. With few other choices for care, the East Hampton School District has referred 20 students with apparent suicidal thoughts to Stony Brook University Hospital in the last year and a half alone. Three South Fork students have killed themselves since 2009, and countless other forms of harmful behavior are reported, including substance abuse, eating disorders, and self-mutilation among students as young as 12.
The problem also extends beyond the school’s reach. Medical professionals and those in related fields have been talking for some time about how to respond. As with nearly everything, however, money has been lacking. State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is helping the East Hampton High School principal, Adam Fine, with a new approach that might provide funding for better and more abundant mental health services for the region’s youth. The energy and flexibility of private-sector groups should be tapped as well.
This is a matter of the highest priority, and those working toward solutions are to be supported and commended. The kids need us; we must do everything and anything we can to help.