Seattle students push city to boost mental health funding in schools
The Seattle City Council is set to approve its 2024 budget this week, and students are hopeful the final version will include $20 million to expand mental health resources in schools across the city.
In the three years C Makar-Wituki has attended Ingraham High School, he knows at least three classmates who have died by suicide.
He wants it to be different for his cousin, who's currently a ninth-grader at the North Seattle school. That's why Makar-Wituki is part of the Seattle Student Union's effort to increase funding for counselors and therapists in schools.
"I would love to see my little cousin go through his entire high school education without hearing about anyone dying," Makar-Wituki said. "But if that does happen, I want to know that the victims and their families and friends had support prior to this and something was done rather than just knowing it was preventable."
The Seattle Student Union has been advocating for more mental health support in schools since a shooting at Ingraham last year left one student dead — and a school community continuing to grieve months later. The city responded with $4.5 million to pilot a mental health program in five schools.
But Makar-Wituki says more funding is needed to reach more students at more schools. And while the Seattle Student Union had wanted more — the group's initial proposal was for about $27 million — Makar-Wituki is glad the city has signaled its support for $20 million.
After the shooting at his school, Makar-Wituki's mental health suffered. Luckily, he sought help from a therapist he was already seeing.
But he knows many Seattle students, especially those living in poverty, aren't so lucky. And he's tired of seeing them struggling — or worse, taking their own lives.
"A lot of that happens because kids aren't given another option," Makar-Wituki said. "They don't have a therapist. They don't have a counselor. They're not told that they matter."
Makar-Wituki says offering students support in school is increasingly important, given the rising cost of therapy and national shortage of counselors.
The council will vote on the budget Tuesday.