New School Year, New Possibilities, New Challenges
By Stephen E. Brock
With a restful and hopefully rejuvenating summer behind us, and the fall of a new academic year rapidly approaching, I would like to use my first president's message to both introduce myself and to share with you the primary priorities for my year as the president of your association. The path leading to my NASP presidency began more than 30 years ago when, as a very young graduate student ( just four years removed from high school), I began my specialist-level school psychology training at San Jose State University (San Jose, CA). Three years later, I found myself in California's Central Valley working as a K–8 school psychologist and serving six schools. I remained in the Lodi Unified School District for the next 18 years, eventually assuming the role of lead school psychologist, and recognizing that there was much I had yet to learn about my profession.
It was from these initial experiences that I realized I needed to continue my education, and with the stated goal of becoming the best school psychologist possible, I returned to graduate school, and almost 20 years ago earned my doctorate at the University of California, Davis. The years during which I was simultaneously a full time school psychologist and full time doctoral student were some of the most demanding, yet professionally fulfilling times of my professional life. From this combination of practical and academic experience, I developed expertise in school-based crisis response and developmental psychopathology.
It was during my doctoral studies that I began teaching undergraduate educational psychology and graduate school psychology courses, and quite simply fell in love with teaching. However, I subsequently found that continuing to work full time as a school psychologist and also teaching at local universities was taking a toll on my family life and, as a result, I made the difficult decision to leave my school psychology practice and become a professor at California State University, Sacramento, where I have now worked for just over 10 years and currently serve as the school psychology program coordinator.
As illustrated by this brief chronology of my professional life, I come to association leadership with a combination of applied and academic preparation and experiences. And it is from these experiences that my first, and primary, priority for my year as your president emerged. As communicated by my presidential theme, Student Success: Mental Health Matters, first and foremost, I hope my year as NASP president serves to further focus attention on the issues of children's mental health. The need for such attention is emphasized by the World Health Organization (2011), which has estimated that around 20% of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems. For example, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication cites data indicating that in a 1-year period, just over 8% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States reported having experienced a major depressive episode (Perou et al., 2013). While in and of themselves these numbers are staggering, even more significant is the fact that 49% of these young people did not receive any mental health care (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.). Given that schools have been identified as the most common entry point for mental health services (Farmer, Burns, Phillips, Angold, & Costello, 2003), it is clear that educational systems in general, and school psychologists in particular, must continue to expand their ability to meet the mental health needs of school children. Consequently, as president I will support NASP's efforts to ensure that school psychologists are the highly trained mental health professionals that our school children deserve. I plan to do so by continuing to emphasize the importance of preservice training standards, offering high quality inservice professional development opportunities, and supporting NASP's advocacy efforts to ensure school psychologists are viewed as key service providers.
Of course there are other priorities and association issues that need to be attended to during the coming year; not the least among them is the Government Enhancement Initiative (GEI) passed by the Delegate Assembly last February. With the passage of GEI, significant changes in how our association operates are pending, and in my next column you can expect an update on the progress being made in the implementation of GEI changes and what they mean for association members. If you are interested in becoming more active in NASP, and even becoming an association leader, you will find my next President's Message especially interesting. So be sure to stay tuned for coming attractions.
Farmer, E. M. Z., Burns, B. J., Phillips, S. D., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2003). Pathways into and through mental health services for children and adolescents. Psychiatric Services, 54, 60–66. Retrieved from http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=87607
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Use of mental health services and treatment among children. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1NHANES.shtml
Perou, R., Bitsko, R. H., Blumber, S. J., Pastor, P., Ghandour, R. M., Gfroerer, J. C., … Huang, L. N. (2013). Mental health surveillance among children – United States, 2005–2011. MMWR, 62(2), 1–35. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6202a1.htm?s_cid=su6202a1_w
World Health Organization. (2011). Mental health: A state of well-being. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/index.html
Stephen E. Brock, PhD, NCSP, is the president of the National Association of School Psychologists.