ATLANTA — At a time, many are calling a national emergency in children's mental health, school counselors said their role on the frontlines has become more critical than ever.
Some metro Atlanta school counselors said they continue to be outnumbered as they feel constant pressure to prevent their campus from becoming the site of another school shooting.
“It has felt like a lot of pressure to know that like I'm the sole person that my kids are going to rely on to talk to you," Deedee Bettis, CHRIS 180 School Therapist said.
Over the last several decades, federal data shows the majority of perpetrators in school shootings were students, not intruders. Georgia ranks in the top ten states for shootings at schools, and that weighs heavy on counselors.
“We see the emotions arising. And then in that moment, we're there to help de-escalate and teach those skills, but it is unfortunate to hear that, Georgia, it's such a high risk," Shanera Brown, CHRIS 180 School Therapist said.
The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students but indicated Georgia’s ratio was closer to one to 500 last school year. The counselors said they’re often stretched then because of this workload.
“You become this kind of fixture in the school where a lot of people know that you're there and they want all the kids to come to you. And then there is a point in there, like you're just like, I have to say no. And that's that just really is a bad feeling to know that you're not able to help a child that maybe really needs it," Bettis said.
The counselors said on top of their expected duties, they're often responsible for educating parents and administrators on crisis intervention.
“There’s always times where I feel like I really wish I could help the whole school. But we don't have that capacity," Brown added.
The counselors said the one thing that could help is simply having more people join the field. But they admit that’s a tough feat, given the recent burnout we’ve seen in schools.
The pair added that their work will continue after school ends, and they'll be working with CHRIS 180 to offer mental health summer groups from June through August.