- The first-of-its-kind Mental Health Map at School of America, released Wednesday, found that all 50 states are struggling to expand school capacity amid a worsening crisis in the country.
- Nearly one in three parents say their children’s mental health is now worse than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- Only Idaho and Washington, D.C., exceed the recommended national ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students, the report card shows.
The mental health of young people is in such poor condition that several of the country’s leading pediatric groups called it an emergency in the country last fall.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Morty even issued a recommendation – a step reserved for the most pressing public health issues – highlighting the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the already severe mental health of children.
“It would be a tragedy if we overcame one public health crisis to allow another to grow in its place,” Merty wrote, outlining recommendations on how institutions like schools could take action.
Experts agree that schools are playing various key roles in ending the crisis. But according to Fr. the first of its kind report card published on Wednesday, all 50 states do not comply with at least some policies that allow schools to perform these roles.
“Everyone understands cognitively that this is a crisis, but I don’t think we’re moving as if that’s the case,” said Lishon Francis, director of behavioral health at Children Now, an advocacy and research organization. Children Now is one of 17 school mental health groups on the Hopeful Futures Campaign, a coalition that has issued the Mental Health Card at School of America.
THE MENTAL HEALTH OF OUR CHILDREN SUFFERS:And America’s schools are not ready to help.
The majority of Americans – 87% – are concerned about the mental health of young people, with 2 out of 3 parents saying they are “very” or “very” concerned, according to a Harris poll to be published on Thursday. However, less than a quarter of Americans believe that state lawmakers, governors or members of Congress are doing enough to combat the crisis.
The crisis is not new. In 2019, one in three high school students reported a constant sense of sadness or hopelessness, which is 40% more than in 2009. About 7.7 million young people in the United States experience mental health each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 24 years.
But apparently the problem has worsened with the pandemic, which for many children has worsened or brought new injuries. From 2019 to 2020 a visit to the emergency department for mental health increased by 24% for children 5-11 years and by 31% for adolescents 12-15 years.
Nearly one in three parents says their children’s mental health is worse now than it was before the pandemic. according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Everyone is going through something,” said 16-year-old Jalen Waite, a student at Battlefield High School in Virginia.
The attitudes of students toward mental health and professionals are “surprisingly poor” in the United States
One of the roles that schools play is early intervention. Half of all mental illnesses gifts yourself up to 14 years.
“The sooner you intervene with effective treatment outcomes, the lower the cost and the more opportunities for a good life,” said Angela Kimball of Inseparable, the mental health policy advocacy group that led the report. “The longer you wait, the worse the results. And usually, when conditions get worse, they get more complicated and harder to treat. ”
But the vast majority of states lack the recommended ratio of school mental health professionals, including counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
Only Idaho and Washington, D.C., exceed the recommended national ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students. In five states – West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Alaska and Georgia – each school psychologist serves well over 4,000 students.
Access to school social workers is even worse: no state meets – let alone exceeds – the recommended ratio of one social worker for every 250 students.
“The odds are so surprisingly bad that it’s almost impossible to imagine,” Kimball said.
Lack of staff is only one part of the problem. According to the report, states tend to be deficient in other areas as well – for example, they rarely require regular mental health surveys or make full use of Medicaid dollars to fund certain services.
States are also inconsistent in their teacher training requirements and school climate. Culturally competent educators and a healthy, inclusive school climate are especially important for marginalized groups such as LGBTQ + youth.
“We could all do a better job of supporting the needs and unique challenges facing LGBTQ young people,” said Preston Mitcham of the Trevor project, which provides crisis support to queer youth. Suicide prevention training, LGBTQ + -inclusive curricula, and policies that honor students’ preferred pronouns promote a healthier school climate.
Having at least one host adult can reduce the risk of suicide attempt among LGBTQ youth by 40%.
New Jersey, Kansas, Virginia are among several states that have made significant progress
There are bright spots. New Jersey last year, a grant program was created that allows schools to conduct annual surveys on depression in children in grades 7-12, for example. And Kansas formed an advisory board which brings together lawmakers, family members and providers to lead the State Board of Education on Student Mental Health.
Another area where some progress has been made is mental health education. Although many states include mental health as a topic in general health curricula, this often recedes into the background. But some states have passed legislation that deepens attention to mental health education, including Virginia and New York.
“FEEL, NIC WORLD AGAINST”:Young people are struggling to find mental health support
Waite, a high school student from Virginia, is working on a project with Active Minds, one of the organizations in the coalition to provide mental health education for young children in his area. By normalizing such conversations before high school, we hope they will be better guided in their mental health as they get older.
In addition to persistent mental health education, Hopeful Futures is a company launching a website where students and parents can learn about policies in their field and how to make a difference through petitions, writing letters and other advocacy.
“When students know about mental health, they feel more empowered,” Kimball said. “They feel better able to seek help.”
Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @aliaemily.