Missouri Library Association

School Libraries Venturing into Mental Health

Beth M. Brendler
Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Missouri

Denice Adkins
Associate Professor, University of Missouri

Kerry Townsend
Library Media Coordinator, Columbia Public Schools and doctoral student, University of Missouri

In Missouri, over 55% of students experienced depressive symptoms such as feeling sad, changes in sleep, and difficulty concentrating in school, at least sometimes. 31.7% reported feeling hopeless at times, 14% had attempted to harm themselves, and 14% had considered suicide in the last year. Additionally, 30% were unsure of where to get help.

One in five young people struggle with mental illness, but the average delay between the onset of their problems and the provision of treatment is ten years. Many young people who need mental health supports do not get them. However, most of those who do receive those supports find them at their schools. School mental health programs are particularly important in rural commu- nities where there is a significant need for accessible and appropri- ate mental health supports.

This session reports on research assessing the capacity of rural school libraries as anchors for community mental health literacy efforts. Our project looked at current efforts among rural schools and communities in Missouri to promote mental health literacy with a focus on roles or functions of school libraries and school librarians. We also examined the current individual, organization- al, and community capacity of rural school libraries to promote community health literacy.

Attendees will learn what challenges rural school librarians face in providing mental health support to their students as well as the capacity these libraries have for offering mental health literacy resources. This session will open up a dialogue about the mental health issues that our students face and how we might serve them better in school libraries.