The relationship between academic achievement and school-based mental health services for middle school students

Lisa O. Williams

Abstract

Mental health issues among American adolescents and children can negatively impact their potential for school success. As many as 10% of students among the general education population suffer from psychiatric disorders, yet only between 1% and 5% of those students are being served. The effects of mental health difficulties are problematic for students because they negatively impact academic performance, behavior, attendance, and school violence (Whelley, Cash, & Bryson, 2003). There are often barriers to academic performance relative to psychiatric illness and problems that include inadequate health insurance coverage, lack of transportation, shortages of child mental health professionals, and stigmas associated to mental health challenges (Young & Murray, 2004). Evidence suggests racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to use mental health services due to lack of access, and they also receive poorer quality care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a relationship between school-based mental health services (one-on-one therapy, therapeutic groups, and family support services) and academic achievement among middle school students as measured by performance in mathematics and reading on a state criterion-referenced test. The study was conducted in a large, suburban school district in the southeastern region of the United States. It was designed to examine the relationship between school-based mental health services and academic achievement for middle school students by race and gender. The researcher conducted a quantitative research study of archival data from 184 middle school students receiving school-based mental health services between 2008 and 2011. The data analysis revealed that there were improvements in reading, but not in mathematics, following participation in one or more school-based mental health services. Based on the data analysis, it was further revealed that there was no significant interaction of achievement scores and gender or race following participation in school-based mental health services. The analysis of means indicated that student achievement in reading for males, females, White students, and Black students improved following participation in school-based mental health services. However, student achievement in mathematics decreased for males, females, White students, and Black students following services.