With #mentalhealth needs growing, #educators and others are experimenting with new ways to address students’ needs — or reinvent old strategies
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Toyin Anderson is a mom looking for solutions to what she sees as a crisis of #youth crying out for help with their #mentalhealth.
“Our #kids are still struggling. From the #pandemic, the lack of being able to socialize, from losses of family members due to #COVID or to violence in the community, that stuff has not been addressed,” says Ms. Anderson, who advocates for hiring more #mentalhealthprofessionals in her Rochester, New York, #school district.
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Educators and others are experimenting with new ways to address #students’ #mentalhealth needs — or reinvent old strategies.
People across the country are searching for ways to support many of America’s #children and young #adults, who say they’re facing #stress, #anxiety, and #depression. Remote #school, shuttered activities, and family job losses during the #pandemic often changed their lives – and their sense of well-being.
Even before the #pandemic began, more than 1 in 3 #highschoolstudents reported persistent feelings of sadness or #hopelessness. Now, despite nearly all K-12 #schools and #colleges being open for in-person learning in the most recent #school year, many #students are still struggling:
- 70 percent of public #schools reported that since the start of the #pandemic, the percentage of #students who sought #mentalhealthservices increased, according to an April survey from the Institute of Education Sciences.
- The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory warning of a #youth #mentalhealthcrisis in December 2021, following a declaration earlier that fall of a “national emergency in #child and #adolescent #mentalhealth” by a coalition of pediatric groups.
- 88 percent of #college #students polled in a January 2022 survey by TimelyMD, a higher ed telehealth provider, said there’s a #mentalhealthcrisis at #colleges and #universities in the #UnitedStates.
There are also increased efforts to find solutions. In partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, seven newsrooms across the U.S. set out to examine efforts that are working for addressing #students’ #mentalhealth needs, such as peer counseling, college re-enrollment programs, and district #mentalhealthservices coordinators. The initiatives might not be effective in all ways, or for all #students, but there are encouraging signs of success that others could replicate. The approaches also add to the conversation happening around the country.
People “from middle America to the coasts” are talking more about care for #adults and #children, and are seeking help from faith communities, #schools, neighbors, and professionals, says Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School #MentalHealth and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland #School of Medicine. “That wouldn’t have happened 20, 30 years ago in the same kind of way – even five years ago – so that gives me hope.”
The Hopeful Futures Campaign, a coalition of #mentalhealthadvocates, including Dr. Hoover, published the first national #school #mentalhealth report card in February. The report card grades states on eight policies identified by the campaign as solutions to the crisis. It finds that most states are far off recommended ratios of #school #counselors and #psychologists to #students in K-12 #schools.
Between March 2020 and December 2021, 92 state laws were enacted to help #youth #mentalhealth through efforts in #schools, according to a NASHP analysis.
Solutions identified by the Hopeful Futures Campaign include hiring more #school #mentalhealthprofessionals, training #teachers and staff in #mentalhealth and #suicideprevention, and establishing regular well-being checks – also known as universal screeners – to identify #students and staff who may need support.
Those types of solutions are attracting attention from lawmakers. “We’re seeing more state legislatures and executive branches trying to figure out what more can we do,” says Hemi Tewarson, president and executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), a nonpartisan policy organization.
Between March 2020 and December 2021, 92 state laws were enacted to help #youth #mentalhealth through efforts in #schools, according to a NASHP analysis. Those efforts ranged from North Carolina establishing a grant program for #schools to hire #psychologists to Texas requiring #schools to include crisis line and #suicidepreventionlifeline contact information on identification cards for secondary #students. Connecticut, meanwhile, permits K-12 #students to take two #mentalhealth days per year.
Even as new ideas rollout, challenges remain. Not all stakeholders are on board with expanding support in #schools, which some say could burden educators and encroach on #parent rights. When the superintendent in a small Connecticut town recently proposed opening a #mentalhealth clinic at a #highschool, for example, the #school board rejected the plan.
In the 2020-2021 #school year, 56 percent of public #schools “moderately or strongly agreed that they could effectively provide #mentalhealthservices to all #students in need,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
#Schools themselves are also pondering how effective they can be in the current environment, given shortages of #mentalhealthprofessionals and funding. In the 2020-2021 #school year, 56 percent of public #schools “moderately or strongly agreed that they could effectively provide #mentalhealthservices to all #students in need,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The reporting from the collaboration newsrooms suggests that educators are trying to reconcile the roadblocks and the solutions by addressing questions like: How do we reach more young people, even in the midst of limited resources? How do we make sure what we are doing for #students is actually meeting their needs and includes their input?
#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy
Back in Rochester, Ms. Anderson – who holds leadership roles with the local group Children’s Agenda and with United #Parent Leaders #Parent Action Network – is also forging a path forward. She has led a community march and attended #school board meetings to urge the district, where her son will remain in the fall, to better implement its current wellness plans and use #pandemic relief money to expand #mentalhealthsupport. She plans to move her daughter to a private Catholic #school, in part because it offers more #mentalhealthresources.
“The country needs to be proactive, not only in my community,” she says. “This is everyone’s business to make sure the #kids in this country are well.”
© 2022 The Christian Science Monitor
This story on #mentalhealth solutions was produced by The Christian Science Monitor, as part of the project “Supporting students: What’s next for #mentalhealth,” in collaboration with The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education and the #Education Labs at AL.com, The Dallas Morning News, the Fresno Bee, the Post & Courier and The #SeattleTimes. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.