Detroit youth stage “die-in” to demand more school counselors

A group of Detroit-area high school students, organized in the 482Forward Youth Organizing Collective, staged a “die-in” at Martin Luther King High School on Saturday, April 16. The protest and accompanying press conference called attention to the lack of school Counselors amid an unprecedented mental health crisis among children and teenagers.

The students chanted, “Mental health is a human right; Fund our counselors, do what’s right,” holding signs including, “This is life or death for us.” They then lay on the concrete for 11 minutes in silence to underscore the appalling lack of counselors.

When last tallied in 2019, Michigan’s ratio of mental health professionals-to-students was second-worst in the US, with one counselor for every 691 students. Only Arizona had a higher ratio.

Student protest in front of Martin Luther King High School (Source: 482Forward)

Nearly half of all Michigan K-12 schools, 400 out of 900, had no full-time counselor at the time of the 2019 study. This state of affairs pre-dated the pandemic, but COVID dramatically intensified the growth of depression and anxiety—and especially grief—within the population.

Under the impact of the ruling elites’ “herd immunity” policy of mass death and infection, diagnoses of depression have reportedly tripled, with disproportionate impacts on those with lower incomes. More than 200,000 American children have now lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19, one of the most stressful events that a child can experience.

During the die-in, multiple students spoke to the impact that the lack of mental health services in schools has on them. A freshman at Lincoln Park High School, Stacy Gonzales, told the group, “This issue hits close to home. We do not need more funding for policing in our schools. We are facing a day-to-day rollercoaster of emotions. Our health is on the line, and we need to be taken seriously.” She related her personal crisis with family issues and the difficulty of sharing this with the school counselor. But after only 15 minutes, the counselor had to move on, Gonzales told the protesters.

Denby High School student Louis Mason echoed the point, “I’m fighting. Mental health plays a huge role inside our schools. It’s very sad that we don’t have access to actual help. We all struggled with barely having the energy to get out there because of … the struggles we face behind closed doors. I’m a victim of all this.”

“What it boils down to is that we don’t have enough professionals in our buildings to proactively help students,” said Terri Tchorzynski, president of the Michigan School Counselor Association, to the Michigan Advance. Tchorzynski said the shortage is caused by a lack of funding, not a lack of availability of counselors.

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