TSD Session Shares Impact of Mental Illness on Bus Ride

Presenter Alexandra Robinson of the New York City Department of Education discusses the impact of mental illness on the school bus ride.

FRISCO, Texas – Everyone has some type of mental psychosis, said TSD Tenured Faculty member Alexandra Robinson, but when it comes to outright mental illnesses student transporters have a responsibility to observe and report when dealing with children on the bus, their parents or even school employees, including drivers.

“The face of mental illness is the high-performing student who just got into an Ivy League school and has her whole future in front of her, the driver who just had a baby and lost a husband,” she said. “It could be somebody sitting right next to you.”

One in four adults and one in five children are diagnosed with some type of mental illness, said the behavioral specialist and executive director of transportation for the New York City Department of Education. Four million children in the U.S. are also diagnosed with mental illness to the point that they are impaired in some way as a result. This can have a profound impact on what are or are not considered special needs on the school bus, parental reactions to their child’s behavior on the bus and how school bus drivers manage the on-board environment.

This can easily translate to student as well as driver behavior issues and conflict on the bus. TSD Conference attendees learned Tuesday they should look for possible signs and report any and all concerns.

Robinson added that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds, and mentally ill students are more likely to drop out of high school.

“We have to give tools to help and make it better (for these kids),” Robinson added, explaining that there is no one solution and that every case is different.

But the stigma of mental illness carries severe consequences for the diagnosed and undiagnosed sufferers at school and work as well as throughout their community and even their own family. The mentally ill are often labeled or judged, she said, rejected or discriminated against. Robinson also said some mental illness is a mark of disgrace in some cultures, so getting the sufferer help will be a very last option if one at all.

Sufferers then can enter a downward spiral of judging themselves that can often result in suicide attempts. And, Robinson added, suicide absolutely should be viewed as a cry for help, attention even.

“When someone wants attention, then give it to them,” she said.

Robinson outlined the four main causes of mental illness with the acronym MINT: Metabolic (drugs, for example), Infectious, Neurological, and Traumatic. She also described the five main types: Schizophrenia; Bi-Polar (which she said is often overly diagnosed); Depression (which she said is often under diagnosed and the most common type and the likely reason behind problems on the bus or at school); Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.