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Mental Health Awareness Month and Title IX

May 18, 2023

For those working in education, the month of May often marks the end of the school year (or close to it), field trips, graduations, and the promise of summer. Since 1949 in the U.S., May also marks Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a month where important conversations are had, stigma is challenged, and resources are made more accessible to those who need them.

According to Mental Health America, 46 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will develop conditions by the age of 14. While many factors can impact someone developing a mental health condition such as genetics and environmental factors, the experience of trauma is certainly a stressor that compounds with other factors toward the development of a mental health disorder.

As Title IX professionals, we need to be aware of the impact of trauma on mental health since many experiences of sexual harassment as defined in the Title IX regulations would be considered traumatic to the experiencing party. Additionally, going through the Title IX grievance process could be a traumatic experience for any party involved. 

An option for a supportive measure for a Complainant and Respondent is access to mental health support. The responsibility falls on the school or institution to consider all supportive measures and offer those accordingly. Knowing the high overlap between a Title IX incident, trauma, and mental health should initiate a conversation between the Title IX Coordinator and the parties regarding mental health resources as a supportive measure.

This can look differently according to the resources you have in your district or at your institution, but it will become an important part of the support process however it looks. Below are some common questions answered about how to navigate this on the ground.

Our Counseling Center or Counseling Staff is too full or even at a waitlist to see anyone else. What do I do when there are no on-campus or in-school resources available?

Building a relationship with your counseling department is very important. It’s true – it would be hard pressed to find a school who did not have a demand issue when it comes to mental health needs. Often your counseling departments have their own case limits, policies, procedures, and scope of practice to operate within. However, they need to understand the policies, procedures, and scope that Title IX operates within as well – particularly the responsibility for the school to provide supportive measures. If you have the service available at your school, you need to find a way to offer it. Work with your counseling team to figure out the best referral protocol, service expectation, and system to accommodate supportive measure referrals through Title IX. If there is no resource like this available at your school, build a referral list to community based providers that can be shared with parties who need access. Consider the role the school will play in covering the cost of that service given that supportive measures are to be offered free of cost to the parties involved. 

What if the parties are not interested in counseling or have another provider they already see?

If you offer a supportive measure of counseling and they decline, you do not have to force them to participate or take the referral. Document that you offered the service and remind the party they can reconsider this supportive measure at any time. You can even keep resources on hand that you can hand out regarding coping with trauma as a way to provide care to the party even if they are not interested in counseling. Your counseling department can likely provide you a great option for you to use for this. If they are already seeing a provider and want to continue there, that is great! They are in an established therapy relationship that’s working and should continue in it. Document that they are already receiving this support and let the party know they can reach out to you if they would like to consider a change to an in-school or on-campus option. 

What if both the Complainant and Respondent in a case need support from our counseling department?

Both the Complainant and Respondent need access to this supportive measure if it is something they want to pursue. However, depending on the size of your school, number of counselors, or no contact directives in place, this can be something to navigate. You will want to communicate well with the counseling department that these parties should not be seen by the same counselor and should not be scheduled for appointments at times when they would overlap in the office or waiting room. Communication is key here! This is usually a lot easier to work out when you have a good relationship built with your counseling department. 

As you wrap up one school year and think ahead about planning for the next, consider your relationship with your counseling department. If you have not had the chance to get to know their staff and their protocols, find a time to do so. This will help you collaborate much more effectively by understanding how to work together in ways that meet both of your needs best. Remember, you are on the same team working to support mental health at your schools. 

Also, your mental health matters too. Being exposed to these experiences through reports can be traumatic for you on the receiving end. Take time to tend to your mental health. Ask for help if you need it. You are not alone!

If you need help locating mental health support in your area, reach out to ICS. We’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

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