At a time when student mental health is in the spotlight, the National School Chaplain Association is announcing an online, accredited program for individuals interested in serving elementary school students struggling with suicidal ideation.
Interested parties can visit https://nationalschoolchaplainassociation.org to learn more.
Following the announcement, the association is partnering with Oklahoma Christian University to offer the online program, which trains chaplains to act as a bridge between secular and spiritual life in the community. Chaplains also provide counsel and advocacy, teach life improvement skills, and work to improve the overall mental health of students in their school environment.
While schools traditionally focus on suicide prevention in upper grades, studies show that elementary-age students aren’t immune. Student risk for suicide does increase with age – it’s the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 through 14, according to a recent report from Education Week. But it’s also the 10th leading cause of death for kids aged 5 through 9. Having depression or an attention deficit disorder increases a primary school student’s risk for suicide, however, less than a third of childhood suicide victims have been previously diagnosed with a mental illness.
Instead, most suicides in younger children are spurred by situations like school disruptions, divorce, substance abuse, or depression in a parent, according to the report. Chaplains can provide a listening ear and emotional support in many of these situations. And they do so regardless of students’ race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Through its partnership with NSCA, Oklahoma Christian University offers three paths to becoming a school chaplain. While no previous experience is necessary, the requirements vary based on applicants’ earlier education or ministry background.
Despite the current cultural environment, chaplains should be critical team members on any school staff, NSCA representatives say. Religion is declining in the United States, but the need for spiritual care is on the rise, according to the association. Chaplains are present everywhere from the New York City Metropolitan Transit System to labor unions and even the government. Even in many secular and public institutions, chaplains help individuals navigate the intersection of mental and spiritual health.
“There is more to personhood than biology. Humans are spiritual beings who need spiritual care,” a representative from the association said. “Chaplains provide the spiritual counsel students seek.”
For more information, visit https://nationalschoolchaplainassociation.org/chaplains
National School Chaplain Association
PO Box 720746
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