Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Helping Teens At School

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 7, 2016


I am dreaming of consulting to a high school wellness center where students are free to talk about their experiences, and concerning behaviors of self-injury, substance abuse, poor relationship choices can be discussed in a context of caring and concern, with a relatively low threshold to suggest psychotropic medication. In essence a place for teenagers to feel listened to, as a way to value listening as a healing art. This imaginary wellness center would be staffed by one psychiatrists, two psychotherapists, one yoga teacher, and parent and peer volunteers who want to help students who have found a bump in their road to adulthood. There would be couches, and ping-pong tables, and quiet spaces, and music areas, along with arts and crafts supplies and quiet confidential areas to talk in private. This would be part community center, part health club, part mental health clinic. Students would not be forced to go, but rather learn about this as an option, in case the “stress” ever gets to them. Students with school refusal could relax at the Wellness Center until he/she was comfortable migrating to the classroom. Clubs, or support groups, might form for students whose parents are getting divorced, or who are dealing with a loved one who is sick and/or dying. There might be periodic talks on mental health issues, such as “Thinking About Depression in Teens” or “Sports Supplements: Are they good for you?” My contention is that a Wellness Center on Campus will diminish the need for students to go on psychotropic medication and it will limit the number of students who need psychiatric hospitalization for self-injurious or suicidal behaviors. Where does the money come from, speaking from my imagination? The money comes from the school district, health insurance companies, and private donations. Who runs the place? A child psychiatrist, of course. Am I looking for a new gig? Maybe.

4 Responses to “Helping Teens At School”

  1. Eleanor said

    Shirah, once again, I say “go for it”. Centers like this are so desperately needed in our schools. I have always thought that, in large part, our schools are probably the best place to recognize children at risk. All too frequently parents don’t, can’t, or won’t recognize many of the issues you mention……they can’t “connect the dots” in ways that look more deeply. Kids need to know that they have “a safe place” they can go to destress, relax and be heard in a non judgmental way. and….I might add….the availability of music and the arts can be a “quiet healing with “individual creativity” as compared to today’s huge emphasis on massive amounts of competitive sports of every kind. Just my thoughts…..Good luck!

  2. Shelly said

    It is indeed a great idea, but school districts probably have no financial incentives to finance the wellness centers. They don’t pay the bills for psychotropic medications of doctors’ bills. Health costs don’t interest them. Keeping kids healthy again is not something that they pay for. If you can convince insurance companies that it is in their best interests to fund the centers around high schools or colleges, then you’ve essentially got a winning idea.

    • The financial incentive is there in that the school gets paid based on attendance. They suffer when students miss school due to hospitalization or a prolonged psychiatric illness. That is one hook which gives this project hope. I think our pitch to insurance companies is that perhaps we can diminish serious and harmful drug use which costs them a lot of money, especially these days where every policy must cover substance abuse treatment. Of course, demonstrating a link between a wellness center and diminished substance abuse will take some time. Thanks, as always for your interesting thoughts.

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